BECCA ROSE: mayonnaise queen

In articles on July 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

This article for Fork Magazine came about during the very first Full Moon Feast – our bring-your-own-and-share full moon supper that we hold every month in a different location in Bristol. Becca was so generous on the day, made us a lovely meal that we ate in some unexpected sunshine in her garden. The original article was called ‘amayonnaising’ which was Becca’s idea and we took a stack of photos that didn’t make it into the magazine. We talked about so much more than mayonnaise and she’s another most wanted to reinterview and dig a little deeper.

becca rose chopping

I don’t notice the jam jar on the table at first, such is the hustle and bustle of our monthly bring-a-dish, welcome-one-and-all supper. Imagine my delight when I realise what it contains.

Home. Made. Mayonnaise!

O mayonnaise! I could go into raptures about you! Floppily languid stuff, sliding off my spoon with the suaveness of a confidence trickster I don’t mind being conned by. Oily dictator in my fridge, imposing yourself with impunity on every culinary choice I make, turning yesterday’s pizza or lasagne into the perfect breakfast (yes, really) and making even iceberg lettuce edible.

I open the jar and spoon some of the happy wonderful creamy contents onto my plate. It’s a perfect 3.5 on the mayonnaise scale, the loose slippery yellow stuff being a 1 and Helman’s Mr Whippy weirdness at a queasy 10. One taste, and I lurch to my feet. “Who made this?!” I demand, brandishing my oversize silver spoon and swooning from the jar’s slight garlic whiff. A shuffle follows the silence and Becca Rose, renowned for the best tortilla española in Bristol and puppeteer extraordinaire, steps forward, chin defiantly aloft. “I did,” she says, “what of it?”

“Teach me!” I proclaim, fervour burning in my eyes.

So, just a few days later, I find myself in Becca Rose’s sunny kitchen, notebook at the ready. Verduras a la plancha are already prepared while shrimp and squid wait to make acquaintance with some hot oil and garlic. One of those famous tortillas taunts us from under a square of kitchen paper.

“I first learnt to make mayonnaise 10 years ago from a French chef named Bruno,” Becca tells me as she assembles the ingredients. “I use this,” she pats a blender that would do Wallace and Grommit proud. “You can make it with just a fork, but I prefer it a bit firmer.” She cracks an egg into the basin. “Don’t think you can double the ingredients and make twice as much,” she tells me, “it doesn’t work. If you want more, you just have to make it twice.” Next comes a clove of garlic, crushed, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of Sherry vinegar. “A friend’s mother in Valladolid made the most amazing mayonnaise – and she made it with pure olive oil! Usually, if you make mayonnaise with just olive oil, it tastes horrible. But with Sherry vinegar, it’s a thing of beauty.”

There’s something arcane about mayonnaise making. As everyone who has ever tried it knows, sometimes, despite getting the ingredients right, getting the process perfect, even clutching your lucky rabbit’s foot won’t make it right. Sometimes the damn stuff just won’t emulsify.

“It happened to me once,” Becca’s face is haunted, “I knew it was coming. I was in Toulouse and I offered to make mayonnaise and then before I knew it, there were five people watching me!” With some cause then, Becca’s hand trembles as she flicks the switch. I gird my loins and pour the oil. As more and more oil goes in, we peer inside, waiting. Then, about a quarter of the bottle in, it happens! The consistency isn’t quite right yet, it’s too slithery, but there is no denying that we have emulsification. I realise I haven’t been breathing. I add yet more oil. The oil content of mayonnaise is prestigious – for a jar of mayonnaise, you need about a jar of oil. Many people lose their nerve and scarper off to buy a ready made jar instead, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory – there’s just as much oil in shop bought mayo. And, of course, it’s shop bought.

We taste and adjust, adding a little more of everything until neither egg, oil, vinegar nor mustard predominate. Each flavour is subsumed into the totalitarian state of amayonnaisingness.

Of course, we sit in the sunshine. Of course, the tapas are amazing. Of course, it is one of those days when you leave, hugs akimbo, all effusive with thanks and all aflush with wonderful memories. Of course it is. With mayonnaise that perfect, what could possibly go wrong?

Becca Rose’s Amazing Mayonnaise

  • Add one whole egg, white and all, to the basin
  • Add a perfect clove of garlic, crushed
  • Add one teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Add a generous tablespoon of Sherry vinegar
  • Breath deeply, be brave, commence blending
  • While blending the ingredients, pour in a steady stream of sunflower oil
  • Suppliment the sunflower oil with olive oil if desired
  • Cross fingers until emulsification happens
  • Continue blending and adding oil until the mayonnaise is thick enough to cling to the sides of the basin
  • Add more vinegar, garlic or mustard until desired taste is achieved

Though heaven knows how they make it last that long, it is said that fresh mayonnaise will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

This interview is an extract from issue 23 of Fork magazine. Fork is a bi-monthly magazine beautifully designed and filled with interviews with interesting people, reviews of the best places to eat and travel to, plus a few recipes for good measure.


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