The Basic Hollandaise


  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 175 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, very soft
  • salt
  • pepper


Put the vinegar, water, mace and peppercorns in a saucepan and boil to reduce to 1 tablespoon. Put the egg yolks in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and beat them with a teaspoon of butter, pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Strain in the vinegar, remove the pan from the heat but kep the bowl over hot water. Gradually whisk in the butter, a small amount at a time, rather like making mayonnaise, until you have a smooth, glossy sauce.

You can change the flavour of the sauce by using different vinegars. Chopped shallots cooked with the vinegar and water, but using an extra tablespoon tarragon vinegar, will give you béarnaise sauce, which is wonderful with grills. Finely chopped mint added to the hollandaise will give you sauce paloise, a classic French sauce from Pau.