Your offbeat alternatives to the staple condiment, the definitive potato salad and a Russian classic
The quantity of eggs and oil I've consumed in the name of Reader's Recipe Swap this week has been quite obscene. My cholesterol levels may have suffered but, on the bright side, I've discovered some much improved versions of familiar favourites.
Rachel Kelly's potato salad, for example, saw the old faithful dish taken up a notch with the addition of gherkins for a tartare sauce twist.
This week has also been a voyage of discovery, from a crowd-pleasing 1950s-style Soviet salad from Galina Varese, to Annalisa Mather's vegan mayonnaise - the nutty edge from cashews and sharp hit of mustard was a winner with everything from sweet potato wedges to crudités.
Top of the pile was a mayo that is moreish, versatile and surprising in equal measure. I was vaguely unnerved before making Betty Bee's rhubarb mayonnaise, but it soon had me hooked. The recipe makes quite a lot but - trust me - you won't regret scaling up as soon as you've tasted it.
The winning recipe: rhubarb mayonnaise
For the stewed rhubarb
400g rhubarb, chopped
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
For the mayonnaise
300g stewed rhubarb (above)
5 egg yolks
3 tsp mustard
100ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 To make the stewed rhubarb, put the fruit in a saucepan with the sugar and water, then simmer it gently until it is tender but still holding a little shape - around 5-10 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
2 Put the stewed rhubarb in a large bowl with the egg yolks and mustard. Whisk until well combined.
3 Add the oil drop by drop until a thick mayonnaise has formed, then season. This will keep for about a week, covered in the refrigerator.
This recipe is attributed to the French (some argue that he was Belgian) chef Lucien Olivier who opened a restaurant in Moscow in the 1860s. The original recipe asks for partridge meat to be used in the salad.
My version is closer to the Soviet-style recipe. I have a couple of Russian cookbooks published in the 1950s, and had a look at their list of ingredients. It wasn't very helpful, as the amounts they list would cater for a big crowd. In fact I remember the old days when we would go to a friend's party, and the women would be sitting in the kitchen, chopping the ingredients and mixing the salad in a big enamelled wash-basin.
Galina Varese, Witney
2 medium potatoes, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1 small onion, diced
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 medium sharp apple, diced
3 cornichons (or gherkins), sliced
5 green olives or a spoonful of capers (optional)
150g peas (should be tinned for the authentic Soviet flavour)
200g cooked turkey or ham, diced
Salt, to taste
1 First cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender. Three minutes from the end, add the carrot. Allow to cool, then chop into dice.
2 Put the onion in a big mixing bowl, then add the chopped eggs, apple, cornichons (or gherkins), olives and ⅔ of the peas.
3 Add the chopped meat to the bowl then add all the mayonnaise. Mix the salad really well and season with salt. Spoon the salad into a big bowl and scatter with the remaining peas.
The best potato salad ever!
This salad always has people begging for more - even confirmed gherkin-haters. The secret of any good potato salad is to use a firm, waxy potato such as charlotte or pink fir apple as they keep their shape much better than floury types.
The latter also have a tendency to suck up any dressing like a camel in the desert and I prefer the way that my dressing coats the waxy varieties. I particularly like Sainsbury's nutty anya potatoes in this salad.
Rachel Kelly, via GuardianWitness
500g waxy salad potatoes
6 tbsp mayonnaise (ready-made is fine)
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tsp dijon mustard
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 gherkins, roughly chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 Scrub the potatoes and boil whole in their skins (if using the waxy variety) in a large pan of salted, boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool enough to handle.
2 While potatoes are boiling, make the dressing by mixing the mayonnaise, natural yoghurt and mustard in a large bowl. Stir in the chopped spring onions and gherkins and check seasoning.
3 Halve the potatoes (or thickly slice if large) and add, while still warm, to the mayo mixture. Stir carefully: don't break the potatoes. (Stirring the warm potatoes into the mayonnaise mixture seems to improve the flavour as the dressing is slightly "cooked").
4 Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh chives.
I have been wanting an excuse to find a way to make oil- and dairy-free mayonnaise for a while, so this assignment was the perfect opportunity. I am thrilled with the result - a tasty but healthy version of mayonnaise.
Annalisa Mather, via GuardianWitness
150g cashews, soaked for an hour or so
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 date, pitted and soaked for an hour or so
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper
1 Drain the cashews, then place all the ingredients into the goblet of a blender and blend until smooth.
Top Photo:Rhubarb mayonnaise: don't be afraid, it's delicious. Photograph: Jill Mead/Guardian