Le Grand Aïoli

Aïoli is Provence; that is where it is best. And where when the sun shines on olive oil, egg yolks and garlic some mysterious culinary process traps everything that is warm and eternal in that mound of shining yellow cream. If you’ve eaten le grand aïoli in Provence under a clear blue sky with plenty of companions and a local wine you’ve been spoilt: it will never be as good in England. But each time, one hopes it might be. Outdoor food, definitely.

Ingredients

  • 2–5 cloves of garlic (depending on their size)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 275 ml(½ pt) olive oil (if very fruity replace with half sunflower oil)

Method

Crush the peeled cloves of garlic in a mortar and mix in the egg yolks. Add the oil a drop at a time, beating continuously with a wooden spoon.

Once the aïoli has started to thicken the oil can be added in a thin stream but it is essential to keep beating as you do so. If the oil is high quality you may need to add a tablespoon or so of warm water to slacken the consistency of the aïoli. The classic version is made with olive oil, egg yolks and garlic, alone. If the olive oil is good the flavour will be superb. But you may prefer to add a dash of lemon juice and some salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon into a pottery or wooden bowl or serve in the mortar if you’ve used one. On a large platter make a vast display from the following, and serve with the aïoli:

Soaked and poached salt cod

A selection of cold vegetables: boiled potatoes, haricot verts, artichoke bottoms, spring onions, radishes, lettuce hearts, Mangetout peas, olives, tomatoes.

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