The classic creamy sauce never tastes better than when you do it yourself - and the ease with which you can will be a revelation
It's natural to be nervous the first time you make mayonnaise. Though you're only trying to combine egg and oil in a nice, stable emulsion, mayo has a reputation for being temperamental, for curdling or splitting if you so much as look at it the wrong way. In truth, though, it's a doddle. So long as you take your time, it should turn out right every time.
Which is why today's instructions avoid any machinery. It's easy enough to make mayonnaise in a blender or processor, but not only will you probably have to make far more than you need, you won't have such a close grasp of what's going on. It's better to use a bit of elbow grease at first.
In a clean mixing bowl, place two egg yolks, 1 tbsp white-wine or cider vinegar and 1 tsp English mustard, or two of Dijon. Fill a small jug or bottle with 275ml oil - something mild-flavoured like groundnut or sunflower - optionally combined with no more than 75ml extra virgin olive oil (more may be overpowering).
Using a balloon whisk, combine the eggs, vinegar and mustard, then start adding the oil, just a teaspoon at a time at first, whisking well with each addition. Once you've poured in about a quarter of the oil, you can add it a tablespoon at a go, again making sure you whisk everything thoroughly.
When at least half the oil has been incorporated, you can again safely increase the amounts you add. (If, by any chance, you get a little heavy-handed and add the oil so quickly that the mayo separates, don't despair. Just put an egg yolk in another bowl and gradually whisk in what you've already made, followed by any unused oil.)
Check the consistency as the oil begins to run out; you may not need every last drop. Once you're happy with your mayo, taste it and add mustard and/or vinegar as needed, and any other flavourings that take your fancy - a clove of crushed garlic, fresh herbs, or finely chopped preserved lemon. If you've overthickened it, thin it with a tablespoon or two of warm water. Season with salt and white pepper, before storing in the fridge in an airtight container.
Phil Daoust is a food writer based in England and France. Twitter: @philxdaoust
Photo: Mayonnaise is easy to make if you're patient, and easy to save if it does go a bit awry. Photography: Floortje/Getty Images