Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Simple things

My mother told us once how one of the most memorable meals she had consisted of a boiled potato, a boiled carrot and a boiled onion. There was possibly another vegetable, maybe even some white sauce, but that was the gist of it. Each thing just tasted of itself and that was perfect and exciting just how it was.

Of course, we mocked. A boiled onion! A boiled potato! But, oh, how I know now - sometimes a simple boiled potato - smooth, fresh, nutty - can be truly a thing of beauty.

Recently this is the kind of thing I've been hankering for in the evenings. No complicated melange of unusual items and techniques and flavourings, just a few unadulterated lovely ingredients.

How can you go wrong with some good parma ham and a plate of ripe melon?

And the other day I delighted myself by using the leaves off the beetroots that would often I suppose get thrown away. Certainly I've never cooked with them before. Wilted quickly in a little butter and served on toasted home made bread with a squeeze of lemon juice and a poached egg, they made a really enjoyable supper. It's so much more satisfying to make something easy and pleasing out of some odds and ends hanging around than to spend too much time and money to churn out something slightly disappointing.

And then, we had the meal at the top of this post recently, which finally gives me some kind of recipe to post. With asparagus starting to appear all over the place my mind drifted to homemade mayonnaise. I'd made it once before in an electric food mixer, and really wasn't that impressed, but I had a little time to kill and thought I'd give it another go.

So, I'd like to report that if, like me, you thought you needed a mixer to make mayonnaise, you can consider yourself corrected - a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease is all it takes.

And it's good. Very very rich, but a plate of fresh olive oil and lemon juice dressed asparagus, those lovely boiled potatoes and a dollop of silky, sharp mayonnaise is really quite, simply, superb.

Homemade mayonnaise
  1. Beat one egg yolk and a pinch of salt in a bowl with a wooden spoon
  2. Add 75ml oil (olive or half olive and sunflower as I used to make it less strong flavoured) DROP by DROP, beating all the time. The mixture will get very thick.
  3. Beat in a squeeze of lemon juice
  4. Add another 75ml oil - this time you don't need to be quite as careful but still pour in little bits. Alternate the oil with small quantities of white wine vinegar (about a dessertspoon in total).
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.