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Recipe: Salsa Aioli (Alioli)

By André de Mendonça

Another fantastic concoction coming out of Spain. There are two versions – with or without egg. Egg based ones are not traditional and are the norm nowadays, but are basically garlic mayonnaise, which is fab but completely different – not better, just different. This week’s recipe is difficult so don’t be fooled by the simple ingredient list, which is why I’ve added a couple of unusual items (please check below that you have enough!) and been precise with the instructions to make it easier for you. Oh, and you will need a pestle and mortar. If you don’t have one, buy one – you are missing out hugely on flavours and it should be an essential tool in the modern kitchen. This sauce is an absolute flavour bomb. If the emulsion splits don’t worry – you will still have some delicious garlic oil! Try again another day and you will get the hang of it.

Makes enough for 3-4 people. Time taken, only 15 minutes. Vegan.

4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled

Pinch of coarse salt

75mls extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Rhythm (a bit)

Patience (lots)

Love (even more)


Unless you have one of those oil spouts things, put the oil in a milk jug as you will need to add the oil drop by drop. Have the lemon juice squeezed and ready, and once the lemon juice is in you will need to hold the olive oil in one hand and stir with the other.

Peel the garlic, cut off and discard the hard bottom bits and chop it up. Add to the mortar with a pinch of salt and start mashing. Mash it well then mash it again and when you think you’ve mashed it enough mash it some more (around 2 mins in all).

Now, once you begin the next part don’t stop until you’ve finished or the emulsion will separate. Don’t change directions of mix, don’t add more than a drop or two at a time, don’t change pace. Put another way for those who prefer a different style of learning… keep going until the end, keep stirring in the same direction, just add a drop or two at a time and do keep the pace the same all the way through. I am reinforcing the instructions here because, like mayonnaise, the emulsion can split but unlike mayonnaise there is no rescue available!

Ready? Begin by adding the lemon juice in one go and stir it into the garlic until it is completely incorporated. Then add a drop or two of oil (remember to be holding the oil now until you’ve finished) and stir in the same direction. Incorporate the oil completely and then add another couple of drops. Keep the pace steady and even and don’t stop. Initially, it will seem as if the more oil you add the less there is in the mortar but keep going! Drop by drop… keep incorporating. You will tell that the magic is happening because as the emulsion of oil, lemon juice and garlic develops, the mixture will get thicker and the resistance in the bowl will increase. Don’t stop! Just keep going steadily, drop by drop, but the stirring must not stop! Rhythm, patience, love! Once you’ve finished the sauce should barely fall off your pestle.

Add to fish, meat, grills, roasted vegetables… Absolutely gobsmacking!