Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    325 ml

Appears in

The Food I Love

By Neil Perry

Published 2005

  • About

The other classic French emulsion sauce is hollandaise. It is the simplest of these sauces to make. It is an emulsion of egg yolks and melted butter, using heat, and flavoured only with a little lemon juice. Use good-quality butter and add the lemon juice at the end, so that its vibrancy is not lost. I’m including hollandaise even though people probably think it a little old fashioned these days. Don’t be fooled by trends, however, as it really is a wonderful accompaniment to many meat, poultry, seafood, vegetable and egg dishes. You can see just by me writing that list that the only thing I’ve left off is desserts – that is how versatile it is. I give a recipe for cooking whole artichokes in the vegetable section; make sure you try it with your own home-made hollandaise sauce. It is delightful to sit there dipping your artichoke leaves in the hollandaise and then pulling them through your teeth.

There are a couple of schools of thought on how to make hollandaise. What is important, however, is to cook the sauce very slowly over a gently simmering saucepan of water. This is the easiest way to stop the sauce from overcooking. By that I mean the eggs scrambling and ruining the sauce. One argument amongst chefs is whether to add clarified butter, melted butter or cubes of cold butter. Clarified butter makes a thicker sauce because it has had the water removed; standard butter is about twenty-five per cent water. But clarified butter has also lost the milk solids, so it has lost a lot of the complex flavour of butter. I prefer melted butter or butter cubes; the sauce is thinner but it has a much better flavour. As for which I use, it depends on how I feel and if I have time to melt the butter, but to be perfectly honest, it is easier to just cube the butter at home. I use a ratio of three egg yolks per 250 g (9 oz) cubed butter. Start with a little water on the egg yolks and add the lemon juice at the end.


  • 3 egg yolks
  • sea salt
  • 250 g (9 oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 lemon, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper


You need a bowl that sits comfortably on top of a saucepan of gently simmering water. Put the egg yolks, some sea salt and 2 tablespoons water in the bowl and whisk. Put the bowl over the water and start whisking. Take care that the base of the bowl does not touch the water. As it approaches the point at which it is fully cooked the mixture will thicken by doubling or tripling in size. It is very important for the egg yolks to reach this point, otherwise the sauce will fall apart when you add the butter. Once the sauce is thick, add three to four cubes of butter, whisking until they are fully incorporated before adding the next lot of butter. Repeat until all the butter is used. Don’t rush this stage, as the sauce will split if you add too much butter at any one time. Also, make sure your sauce is not getting too hot; you can lift the bowl off the pan every now and again if you are having trouble.

Once the butter is fully incorporated, remove the bowl from the heat and squeeze in the juice of ½ lemon and add lots of freshly ground pepper. Whisk to incorporate. Check for salt and lemon, then the sauce should be perfect. Remember that this version will not be stiff; if that is the type of sauce you are after, use clarified butter.