Garlic overdrive


Am I the only person who thinks that the automated announcer at Heathrow T5 is – and I choose my words carefully here – demented?
“Stand clear of de doors” she implores, in a monotone that makes even Marvin the paranoid android sound cheery. And this, the first taste of a British accent that our overseas visitors get to experience when they arrive? Is it really a fair representation of how anyone in our country sounds? I’m pretty sure that I have never met anyone in real life who speaks in this way. My mate Yorick suggests that she’s Dutch (Yorick is also Dutch, but he seems to have a basic ability to annunciate, so I’m unconvinced). Can we please have a re-record and choose someone a little more cheery (and who can pronounce the word “the” properly?) Really, they can be from anywhere – Blackpool, Glasgow, Scunthorpe, Penzance, Leigh-on-Sea – anywhere just as long as they can spit a sentence out in a way which is representative of at least one small corner of our fair island.
In the meantime, as we wait impatiently for this ghoulish voice to be replaced, we may as well stick something in our mouths that will make us wince and smile all at the same time – so here come two dishes that will make you feel like you’ve been punched in the face with a big fat bulb of garlic. In a good way.

We used to do this all the time in France and it then just disappeared from memory until I was at my sister’s a few weeks ago, so here it is again…
There are loads of ways of doing it, and I’m sure this isn’t the classic recipe, but it turned out pretty well in the end.
Finely chop all the following things and put them into a blender: a little tin of anchovies, a handful of black olives (don’t forget to remove the pits. And don’t buy pitted olives), a few small tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of basil, plenty of salt and pepper and then lots of good olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Blend it for a little while so that everything is chopped finely, but still has some basic form. Taste it and then add more of any of the above ingredients to your taste. The flavours should be very potent as you only serve this in small bites.
Now take a (proper french) baguette – not one of those flabby engligh ones from the supermarket – you need a skinny one for this. In fact, a ficelle, if you can get it would be best here, or a baguette a l’ancien. I know I’m starting to sound like a wanker here, but it will help, and I know you can get all of these things at any decent waitrose/wholefoods or whatever. Cut the loaf into thin slices and bake in the oven with a dab of olive oil to make little toasts.
Spread the anchoiade thickly on the toasts and you’re there.
Garlic overdrive part one complete – now for the killer…

Start by making your mayonnaise (don’t even think of buying it) – it takes less than a few minutes: stick two egg yolks, a sprinkle of sea salt, a decent amount of pepper, a tablespoon of dijon mustard and a good splash of white wine vinegar into a mixer/blender. Set if off at high speed and then start to pour your oil into the mixer very slowly – i tend to use a mix of sunflower oil and rapeseed oil. Don’t use just olive oil – it’s not right for this sort of thing – you don’t want the flavour of the oil to take over (that’s the garlic’s job). Keep pouring in the oil slowly and you’ll see the mix start to emulsify and lose some of its colour (although hopefully not all of it – that’s one of the best things about your own mayonnaise – it doesn’t have that sickly pale hue that we’ve all had to become accustomed to). Stop the mixer once you have a decent consistency (you’ll probably have used about 300ml or so). Have a quick taste – if it still has an eggy twang to it, you probably need a little more vinegar or salt, and you maybe need to mix it a little longer also. Anyway – you’ll know when it’s right.
And that’s your basic mayonnaise done.
I often use grainy mustard to give it texture, and you can add all sorts of herbs too if you like – tarragon is really good. You can also substitute some of the vinegar for lemon juice if you fancy. Have a play. Go crazy.

Now take half a bulb of garlic. Yep, half a bulb. Crush each clove with the back of a heavy knife, peel off the skin, chop very finely and add to the mayonnaise. And add more salt too. It should burn your tongue when you taste it. If it doesn’t, add more garlic. If you think you added too much garlic, you’re wrong (and you’re a pussy).

This was perfect accompanied by my Nic’s slow roast shoulder of lamb – see pic.
(and yes, the lamb accompanied the Aioli, which was of course the main event…)

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