I have been experimenting with making my own aioli as I want to have one free of preservatives to serve my family. We all love roasted purple-skinned kumara with a good creamy aioli. However, when I use extra virgin olive oil (I have been using the Australian Red Island one) it is too bitter. I tried a cold-pressed sunflower oil but that was worse, less bitter but an unpleasant flavour. Can you recommend a brand of olive oil that would work? I don't want to use canola.
- Thanks, Anthea
I love a good aioli and also a tasty allioli - the Spanish version - but they can be as different as mustards depending on how you make them and what you make them from. I was in Valencia during the America's Cup years back and ordered bacalao with allioli, expecting a chunk of poached salt cod topped with glistening garlicky aioli, and instead was served a delicious dish smothered with garlic, cooked until golden brown and pungent in peppery and salty olive oil. I guess it was allioli (garlic and oil) but it wasn't what I'd expected. I've also ordered and thoroughly enjoyed le grand aioli in Provence, which is a fabulous sharing dish of boiled or steamed fish and vegetables, boiled eggs and clams - although I've heard it also sometimes has snails with it.
Years ago I was working with Fergus Henderson at The French House - he of Nose to Tail eating at St John these days - and I was amazed that he liked to make his aioli using 100 per cent extra virgin olive oil. It was extraordinary as, like you, I find aioli becomes way too bitter using only extra virgin oil, especially if made in a food processor which seems to increase the bitterness of the oil.
I've only ever made aioli using around 30 per cent extra virgin, always added at the end, with the rest being sunflower or canola oil. This gives me a much lighter, but very tasty, aioli.
It's also best if it's made at least a few hours beforehand as the flavours mellow and become less harsh. To be fair, Fergus has since successfully served several Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of his aioli with boiled carrots and eggs and no one has complained, so it's good to be aware that you need make what you feel is correct.
Bear in mind that different oils have different flavours. I tried a delicious Australian oil last year and there was a taste that I knew but couldn't pinpoint. It was eucalyptus. Who knew an oil could taste like that? Obviously the olive groves are located near native bush. However, I can't imagine an aioli made from it. Likewise the oils that are produced in New Zealand will vary greatly - from Waiheke Island to Marlborough and the Hawkes Bay - which is their appeal.
If all oils tasted the same then we'd be in a less exciting culinary world.
Just like wine, the terroir and variety of olive will define the finished product, along with the farming, harvesting and production methods.
And to give you even more choice, following is a great recipe for making aioli without using eggs at all, which is terrific for people on an eggless diet.
We make this at Bellota from time to time, as well as in London, and it's quick to knock up as long as you have a stick or bar blender.
Adding some soaked saffron at the start gives it a lovely golden hue and flavour as well and some chervil or chives snipped in towards the end is also great.
Finely puree four cloves of garlic with 125ml full fat milk - you need it super smooth. Slowly drizzle 200ml sunflower oil into the milk, as you would oil into a mayonnaise, until emulsified, then 100ml olive oil (ideally not extra virgin unless it isn't too strong). Stir in about tsp crushed flaky sea salt, to taste.
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