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Garlic leaf mayonnaise

Morito tweeted a picture of Henry the chef’s garlic leaf mayonnaise. I know Morito well, I eat there often. I’ve posted a nice story about it here. I was intrigued by the picture. Henry looks like a handsome Tim Roth and his mayo looked like a jade Helman’s. I wanted some. 

I love garlic leaves. They’re a good sign that Winter has almost finished. Spring is coming, as they don’t say on Game of Thrones. We’ve survived the dark, the cold. In March, the earth thanks us by giving us fresh garlic leaves. Emerald green, sweetly pungent, I look forward to them every year.

Beautiful wild garlic leaves. Photo by Simon Wilder

Beautiful wild garlic leaves. Photo by Simon Wilder

I went to Morito. It was unusually quiet for a Sunday lunchtime. Henry had the day off. There was another chef there, Jesse, as handsome as paint. Josie, the lovely manager, had her day off, too. I don’t suppose Jesse and Josie could work the same shift. It would be like the cockpit in Airplane!: What’s our vector, Victor? We have clearance, Clarence. Roger, Rodger. We fell to talking about the green mayo. He told me first Henry’s and then his version. Henry blanches the garlic leaves with some parsley. The parsley retains its greenness better. Then processes them with some oil and strains it through muslin. You’ll have a very green oil to make your mayo with.

Jessie said he wouldn’t strain the oil, he’d process the leaves, eggs, oil, mustard and lemon all together. It wouldn’t give as smooth a green colour, but it was pretty good. He also suggested using a whole egg, not just a yolk. This blew my mind a bit as I’ve never heard or read anyone doing this before. I’ve made mayonnaise many times. I like to do it by hand, not in a machine. It’s a kitchen job I love. But I make very small quantities, usually using just one large yolk.

We moved on to the type of oil to use. I said I normally use grape seed oil in mayonnaise. Jesse looked pained, he may even have snorted derisively, if quietly. Jesse uses a light olive oil, North and South, which is Spanish. You can buy it at Brindisa, in five litre cans, more than I use in five years. I hardly ever use olive oil. I rarely cook with it. I much prefer virgin rapeseed oil which has a less assertive flavour and doesn’t mask the taste of what I’m cooking. It was a revelation when I first bought a bottle. I also cook with lard, goose fat, butter and fatty bacon melted in a pan. On salads I often use walnut oil, which is also brilliant for roasting new potatoes, as is the oil from a tin of anchovies. But, as I type this, I’m getting a taste memory of dipping some good bread into a pool of fruity, peppery, bright green olive oil and I want some. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m going to have to buy seven different oils until I find the ‘right’ one. Decent olive oil, you need no reminding, is expensive. I left a message with Brindisa asking if they sell smaller quantities or if there was a substitute. I’d be happy to use grape seed oil again, really, despite Jesse’s snort and the way he muttered ‘tastes bad’ under his breath. They suggested Arbequina olive oil. I went to Borough Market and was served by the first Spanish redhead I’ve ever met. She was the definition of vivacious. We made each other laugh. So now I have some tiny chorizo picante, some mojama (the tuna equivalent of serrano)and a litre of Arbeqina olive oil. The tin’s nice.

What has happened to Borough Market? There was a time when I went there on the bus every Friday, always came home with too much stuff. I may write about it soon, but a lot of people have had a lot to say about it since its transformation from market to covered food hall so I don’t know if I will. There’s now a too tempting cookware shop. All the assistants were charming. They charmed me into spending a million pounds in under ten minutes. I bought a funnel slash strainer, because I don’t have enough kit in my kitchen. Still… pretty.

Jesse suggested going to Victoria Park to forage some leaves myself. I’m too prissy for that, I’d worry about squirrel pee. Or worse. Jesse shrugged my fears off. I was falling a little in love with Jesse. Of course, last Friday Borough Market was all about garlic leaves. They were £7 a kilo and every veg stall had some. I bought £1.50’s worth, a bottle of agro dolce, a sort of white balsamic, at Neal’s Yard, ate a mediocre salt beef sandwich, and skedaddled, arms full.

I blanched the garlic leaves and parsley, stalks included, then refreshed in icy water. I drained and patted it dry then put in the processor, turned it on and slowly poured in around half a litre of the oil. The result was a stunning emerald liquid the same colour as a Toikka bird I’d bought myself for my fiftieth birthday. The oil smelled of green. It smelled of spring. It was so beautiful I decided to use it as Jessie had suggested, with all the tiny bits in.

Unfiltered sludge that is garlic leaf oil is the same colour as the Toikka bird I bought myself for my 50th birthday. Photos by Simon Wilder

Unfiltered sludge that is garlic leaf oil is the same colour as the Toikka bird I bought myself for my 50th birthday. Photos by Simon Wilder

In a bowl I mixed two egg yolks, a dessert spoon of Dijon mustard, two of agro dolce, some salt and started to add the green oil slowly as I worked it with a whisk. It all comes together quite quickly. The result wasn’t as stiff as I’d wanted or expected. It was more liquid than mayonnaise usually is. It’s possible that the tiny bits of leaf or the chlorophyl had stopped that from happening. Maybe the problem is olive oil. I don’t know. Life is full of mystery. I put it in the fridge for an hour to firm up. Here is the result at the top of this post. It tastes as good as it looks.

I filtered the remaining oil in my new funnel. It works brilliantly, much better than I’d expected. At first the oil was a vibrant green, but overnight turned much darker. I made a new batch of mayo. It, too, didn’t stiffen. It, too, was delicious. Both will only last a few days in the fridge, so I’m eating it with everything. Everything, I must say, is improved.

My new funnel. Agro Dolce and Arbrequina olive oil. Mayonnaise made with filtered oil. Photos by Simon Wilder

My new funnel. Agro Dolce and Arbrequina olive oil. Mayonnaise made with filtered oil. Photos by Simon Wilder

Handsome Jesse on the left, handsome Henry on the right. Photos by Simon Wilder

Handsome Jesse on the left, handsome Henry on the right. Photos by Simon Wilder


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