Everybody should be able to make this simplest of the emulsion sauces without using a food processor, though I realise that, with the time constraints we all have, the food processor method will win every time. Make it by hand just once as it will help you to understand the properties of an egg yolk.

There are a few points to remember whether you are making mayonnaise by hand or with a food processor. If these are kept in mind, the dreaded ‘splitting’ can be avoided.

  • All ingredients should be at room temperature. Warm the bowl in which the mayonnaise is to be made in hot water before beginning and dry it thoroughly. This will take any chill off the egg yolks. Heat the oil to just tepid if it has been refrigerated.
  • The egg yolks must be well beaten for a minute or two before adding anything to them. This will help them absorb the oil better. A little of the acid, that is, the vinegar or lemon juice is then added. This seems to help the oil absorption. The remainder is added at the end.
  • The oil should be added very slowly at first, just drop by drop, until the emulsion process begins and the sauce incorporates into a heavy cream. After this the oil can be added more rapidly.
  • The maximum amount of oil one egg yolk can absorb is about ¾ cup (185ml, approximately). As soon as this volume of oil is exceeded, the mixture will curdle. It is better to measure out the oil for the number of eggs you are using before you begin than risk having to re-incorporate a curdled mess with additional egg yolks.

3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
500ml (2 cups) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other vegetable oil
2 tablespoons boiling water
Vinegar or lemon juice, extra
Dijon mustard, extra
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Warm the mixing bowl in hot water and dry it thoroughly. Add the egg yolks and, using a wire whisk, beat yolks until they are thick and sticky.

Add the tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice, the salt and half teaspoon of mustard. Whisk for a further 30 seconds.

The eggs are now ready to receive the oil and while it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon, or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce.

Stop pouring, but continue beating every 10 seconds or so to be sure the yolks are absorbing the oil. After 1/3 – 2/3 cup of oil has been incorporated the sauce should thicken into a very heavy cream.

Once this has happened, the remaining oil may be added 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking well to incorporate between each addition.

If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it out with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar, then continue adding the oil until all is incorporated.

Beat the boiling water into the mayonnaise. This is insurance against curdling.

Add extra vinegar or lemon juice and mustard to taste.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Slow-roasted garlic & lemon chicken


This recipe really has me hooked. It is so easy and delicious and also very adaptable. When you have had a little practice, you can throw your vegetables into the roasting pan with the chicken and other ingredients. We have done it very successfully with baby potatoes and artichoke hearts cut in half and chokes removed. An all time favourite is with baby fennel bulbs cut in half or quarters that end up deliciously caramelised with all the juices.

Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken was originally one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes, but I’m afraid her cooking times are far too long, her temperatures too high and the result totally inedible.

1 chicken (2 – 2.25 kg), cut into 10 pieces  or 4 chicken marylands or 8 chicken drumsticks
1 head of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
2 unwaxed lemons, cut into 8 wedges
A handful of fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
250ml white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven 120C.

Put the chicken pieces into a roasting pan and add the garlic cloves and lemon wedges. Pull the leaves from most of the thyme stalks and sprinkle the leaves over the chicken. Retain the remaining thyme stalks to strew over the chicken later. Add the oil, then, using your hands, mix everything together, then spread the mixture out, making sure the chicken pieces are all skin-side up.

Sprinkle over the white wine and add the black pepper. Cover the chicken tightly with foil, and place in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove the foil from the roasting pan and increase the oven heat to 160C. Cook the uncovered chicken for another 30 – 45 minutes, by which time the skin of the chicken will have turned golden and the lemons will have begun to caramelise.

The vegetables can be added during the cooking time depending on how long you estimate they will take to cook.

Serves 4.