“Now that I’ve spent years observing how grand people live I’ve learnt that the ultimate grand person’s food… is not caviar, truffles, virgin olive oil or fancy cheese. No, it is … Hellman’s mayonnaise”
-Miriam Clegg, Made in Spain: recipes and stories from my country and beyond
Miriam Clegg, the wife of the Lib Dem leader, was describing lunch at David, or rather Sam, Cameron’s No 10 where the roast chicken was served, to her surprise, without ceremony, on a wooden board with a box of Maldon salt and a jar of Hellmann’s.
Janice Turner, a journalist writing in The Times comments on her surprise, explaining, “I don’t think she understands the affected nonchalance of upper-middle-class dining. Try hards are thought a bit sad”.
Personally I ‘try-not-hard’, and use bought mayonnaise, because I am shamelessly lazy, nothing to do with aspiring to be upper-middle-class.
Improving the taste of bought mayonnaise
However, there’s a very good reason for decanting the Hellmann’s. If you transfer the mayo to a bowl you have the opportunity to add a bit of this, and a bit of that, and thus further improve the taste.
This recipe is along the same lines, developing a good concept even further. The bit of this and the bit of that in this case is gin, garlic and tarragon. You can get away with the instant mash, largely thanks to quantities of high quality butter (follow this link for what to look for butter-wise).
Use the best possible bought mayonnaise – and it’s not Hellmann’s
The same approach applies to anything you make based on bought mayonnaise. You can get away with it being bought (if you have standards) as long as it is pretty damn good. And I have just discovered, thanks to my colleagues at Tried and Supplied, that the best mayonnaise is not Hellmann’s.
I haven’t been happy with the ubiquitous Hellmann’s for a while now, so a year or so ago I switched to Delouis for ‘nude’ use (ie, not using it in other recipes) – it’s very mustardy, a good option if you are looking for that particular taste.
I’ve spurned another Hellmann’s competitor, which has now apparently convinced over a fifth of the market, a condiment which labels itself, Seriously Good Mayonnaise, and which was described by Martina Davis, Sauces Senior Brand Manager at Kraft Heinz, in an interview in Campaign Magazine (the marketing industry rag) in June 2018 as, ‘As smooth as Hellmann’s, only Heinzier’. In my view, the Heinz offering has a slightly sweeter taste, and the texture just as plastic as Hellmann’s.
So what’s my secret? Dr Will’s.
It’s because there’s nothing plastic about Dr Will’s. Dr Will’s is about as near to ‘homemade’ mayo as I have ever found. I don’t know if it is due to the fact that both sugar and salt are reduced so that the flavour shines through and the consistency is more natural. 100 g of Hellmann’s contains 3.5 g, Heinz contains 1.5 g and Dr Wills contains 0.1 g of sugar; there’s less of a differential in the salt levels. See the table below for a more detailed comparison.
Recipes using mayonnaise as a base
So for anything you make which has a mayo foundation, Dr Will’s is my mayo of choice. Here are a few examples on Saucy Dressings:
- vitello tonnato
- a chicken salad for cheats with lovely lemony mayonnaise dressing
- mustardy mayonnaise chipolata dip
- sea trout with mayonnaise, braised translucent vegetables and a nasturtium or two
- crunchy, creamy potato salad
- quick classic avocado mousse
….to list just a few.
Further improvements to bought mayonnaise – the gin and the tarragon
I learnt the trick of adding gin to mayonnaise from Elizabeth Luard (not personally, sadly, which would have been lovely – just from reading her delightful books), and the idea of adding tarragon to vinaigrette emanates from Elizabeth David (more reading).
Combine the two Elizabethan ideas with the superlative combination of mayonnaise and garlic and you may be transported to paradise…. or at least you may not notice the fact that the mayonnaise is bought. You will also be well on the way to making an aïoli.
Recipe for shameless cheats’ mayonnaise with tarragon and gin
Serves about six on potatoes
- 6 tbsp bought mayonnaise (maybe a little more if you are using the less stiff Dr Will’s)
- 1 tsp gin
- 1 clove garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- One sprig of tarragon (about ten leaves) – take off the leaves and chop
Simply mix the lot together.