In 1983 I was homeless for several months, couch surfing at the homes of various friends. For a time I stayed in Brixton with the lead singer in my band, Ron Meerbeek, who shared a penthouse flat in a small tower block, which was tucked behind the police station. I even got a room to myself because one of his flatmates was away. It was tiny, furnished with nothing but a single mattress on the floor, some thick curtains, and a load of communist posters on the walls. The last occupants had been Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch, but they'd moved to New York.
Ron and his flatmate (Melanie, I think???) catered for themselves, so it stood to reason that I would too. Melanie introduced me to her mother's version of Caesar salad, which involved rubbing a bowl with garlic, adding some shredded iceberg lettuce, some anchovies, some grated parmesan from one of those little cardboard tubs, then crumbling some of those dreadfully sweet dried French toasts over it before dressing it with a load of Thousand Island dressing from Tesco.
What I took away from this when I started making the real thing is that I like the anchovies to be included in the salad itself, and that I far prefer it when the croutons are torn (as opposed to being cut into cubes).
A few thoughts on homemade mayonnaise:
Any recipe using raw eggs runs the risk that they might contain salmonella. To minimize this risk, use the freshest free-range eggs that you can find. Don't allow the white or yolk to come in contact with the outer shell, and wash your hands after disposing of the shell.
Mayonnaise tastes of the ingredients you add. The mustard can be the mustard of your preference, white wine (or other) vinegar is standard, but you can substitute lemon juice (as in this case). DON'T try to use olive oil with your blender; the chopping action of the blades turns it bitter. Use a a neutral-tasting oil, such as sunflower oil, instead.
Makes sufficient croutons for 4 large salads. Store any left over in an airtight jar for later use.
Makes more than enough mayonnaise for 4 large salads. Store any left over in the fridge in a sealed container to use within a week. A great accompaniment for fish, seafood, Hazel potatoes, almost everything really!
For the croutons:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
100g baguette (about 1/4 of a loaf) or sourdough
a pinch of salt
For the mayonnaise:
1 very fresh whole egg
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (I used English mustard)
the reserved garlic from making the croutons
1 tablespoon lemon juice (1 smallish lemon)
1 cup of neutral oil (I used sunflower oil)
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
2 - 3 anchovies (optional)
For the salad:
2 hearts of romaine lettuce or 4 little gems (for 4 large salads)
plenty of Parmigianino Reggiano for grating
salted anchovy fillets in oil (12 for 4 large salads), in thirds
salt and black pepper
If you're unfamiliar with anchovies, find out more about them here:
First make your croutons. Start by adding the minced garlic to the olive oil, giving it a whisk, and letting it sit so the flavour infuses.
Next, while you preheat your oven to 190ºC, tear 100g of dense bread (about a quarter of a French loaf) into bite-sized pieces and place them in a large bowl.
Drain the oil into the bowl through a fine sieve, reserving the garlic for the mayonnaise. Toss the bread so every piece gets a coating of oil, then spread them out as a single layer on a baking tray. Sprinkle them evenly with a pinch of salt.
Pop the tray into the oven and bake the croutons for 8 minutes. Remove the tray and use a fish slice or a pair of spoons to redistribute them and turn them over. Back in the oven for another 7 minutes, watching carefully towards the end of the cooking time so they don't burn. Leave them to cool.
Time to make the mayonnaise! Break the egg into the goblet of your blender, wash your hands well after ditching the shell, then add the mustard, the reserved garlic, the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt (and the optional Worcestershire sauce and anchovies, if using - I didn't; I wanted to use the mayo for other things as well). Put on the lid and give it a good whizz.
With the blender running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream. The lid of my blender has a clear plastic cup with a tiny hole in it that makes this easy. If you need to do this by hand, use a jug (like a measuring jug) designed for pouring.
The whole process takes less than a minute, and hey presto! You have a decent mayonnaise. Scrape it out and store it in the fridge.
To make your salad, use only the crispest lettuce leaves. Wash and dry them carefully by hand, or wipe them down with damp kitchen towel. Keep small leaves whole; tear larger leaves into two or three pieces.
Use a large bowl to make the salad, and make only one portion of salad at a time. Place in the leaves, some croutons, and four halved anchovy fillets, then grate in some cheese and add a spoonful or two of mayonnaise.
With clean hands, gently fold everything together so that every leaf gets a coating of mayo and cheese.
Transfer the salad to a serving plate, then wash your hands and grate some more cheese over the salad, and add a few more croutons for good measure. Enjoy!
Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.
Did you know?
You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series: