The simplest of dishes are also quite often the tastiest, especially when using high-quality ingredients. The little feast I am sharing today takes little time and effort to prepare, and it is perfect for sharing with friends and family.
A lot of the time, we try really hard with food but when using ‘special’ ingredients like scallops and fillet steak, I like to keep it really basic so I can actually taste these delicious ingredients. It does not mean compromising on a bit of ‘oomph’ and a nice, tasty dip can make the difference.
I decided to go for Mediterranean dip aïoli. Easy! Quite unexpectedly, a lot of tears were shed over this recipe. Seriously… the past week has been a rollercoaster of a week, and the smallest of hurdles have been turning me into an emotional wreck.
Let me just share my mistakes so you do not waste your time repeating them. Initially, I was determined to make aioli the Spanish way, using garlic as the emulsifier (rather than egg). It would mean Jumpy could have it (although she hates garlic). It was a disaster and did not turn into anything like a dip, not even a paste. Down the drain went 300ml of good quality olive oil.
I thought I would resort to making my good old French version of aïoli, which is nothing more than homemade mayonnaise with garlic in. I just swapped the sunflower oil for olive oil, to give the aïoli Spanish flavours. Easy, you would think!
Old wives’ tales in France will advise you not to make mayonnaise when you are stressed, unsettled or on your period. “Rubbish,” I have always answered! Well, for the first time in my life, I ended up with good old curdled mayo. Down the drain again!
As I was crying over the mess in front of me (and getting quite frankly upset about it), my mum offered to make the aïoli, with the exact ingredients I had suggested (1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 200ml extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch saffron, salt, pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves). She executed it beautifully, with a fork.
It tasted vile! Seriously, it was awful. We decided there was way too much saffron in it, and the olive oil was giving it a dreadful after-taste. Fail, fail, fail!
We were supposed to have a 2-course meal that night, but it was our first time using our traditional Volcanic Rock slab and it was not hot enough. We only managed to cook what we had intended to have as our starter, but luckily, with some Serrano ham and bread, it ended up being enough for our dinner.
The scallops had come frozen and my mum’s advice was to simply place them in milk in an airtight container the night before and pat them dry just before cooking between a couple of sheets of kitchen towel. They were perfect cooked on a high heat for 2 minutes on each side and seasoned with a little sea salt.
We made a very simple salad, with baby plum tomatoes, green olives and cucumber. Armed with her child-safe knife, Jumpy helped make the salad by chopping cucumber. We simply added a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of lemon, salt, freshly ground pepper and flat-leaf parsley on top.
We also had asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham as well as red peppers cooked on the Volcanic rock slab.
The next day for lunch (how decadent!), we had fillet steak (check advice for cooking steak here) with asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham (again, a huge hit), red peppers, thin slices of new potatoes and corn on the cob, all cooked on the stone and served with freshly baked bread and aïoli.
This time, I had left the Volcanic rock slab in the oven on gas mark 8 for a couple of hours (whilst the bread was baking) and then heated it some more on the hob (20 minutes).
Look at that beauty!
I just made my ‘normal’ mayonnaise recipe and replaced the vinegar with lemon juice and added crushed garlic and a few strands of saffron on top. It was the perfect accompaniment to steak, asparagus and I must have dipped half of that freshly made loaf of bread in the dip!
- French-Style Aïoli
- 1 medium free-range egg yolk at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard at room temperature
- 200 ml sunflower or rapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional: a tiny pinch of saffron
- Optional: In a small bowl pour 1 tablespoon of boiling water over the saffron and set aside.
- In another bowl, mix the egg yolk and mustard with a teaspoon.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Using a handheld mixer on low speed, add 2 tablespoons of oil until the mixture thickens and forms peaks. Increase the speed of the whisk and add 2 more tablespoons of oil.
- When the mixture starts to form peaks again, add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process until all the oil has been used.
- Still whisking, add in the lemon juice.
- Adjust seasoning, fold in the garlic and saffron / saffron water if using. If you would rather have a hint of saffron there rather than a full-on saffron flavour, simply add a few strands of saffron over the top of the aïoli.
- Serve at room temperature.
- It will keep well in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple of days.