This sauce is strongly associated with Ibiza and seems to be served everywhere but it is a sauce popular in all ‘Els Països Catalanes’ – the lands once making up part of Catalunya.
Translated directly Allioli means garlic and oil and in the olden days, that is what it was, with the only additional ingredient being salt. Made in the traditional way with just these three ingredients – using the salt as a sort of sand paper to help puree the garlic and then both holding the emulsion together as the oil is added – it is a fully hardcore sauce.
This, however, is a difficult sauce to make and is perhaps a bit strong so unless you have a bunch of garlic maniacs to feed I suggest you make the same sauce but with the addition of egg yolk. I prefer it with egg yolk.
I was talking to a theologian recently and he told me that it wasn’t manna that God gave the Jews in the wilderness but Allioli. This he obviously intended to be eaten with the quails. It is easy and quick to make too and the result is, as I say, God given.
The French have an identical sauce spelled almost the same that comes from Provence – Aioli. I have heard this described as the golden butter of Provence, which will give some indication of how the finished product should look.*
You will need a mortar and pestle
Between 2 and 6 cloves of garlic
1/4pint good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 free-range egg yolk
Cut the tail off the garlic cloves and peel them. Unless you particularly like cleaning garlic crushers, turn your knife upside down mash the garlic with the opposite edge to the blade. This will effectively crush the garlic making it easier to puree with a mortar and pestle.**
Add a bit of salt and turn it into a puree with the pestle. Add the yolk and stir thoroughly.
Once the egg yolk and garlic are mixed, slowly add the olive oil. Take care to add the oil slowly at the beginning but once the emulsion has formed you can add the oil more quickly. (If it separates, stop immediately and add three drops of water, stir in and then continue).
After you have added about half the oil the sauce will start thickening up considerably. Add the rest of the oil with care again whisking fast with the pestle. Stop the flow of oil each time you think there is a flood and work the sauce until the oil has been brought back in.
Keep going until you have a very dense sauce that looks like softened butter.
I am aware there are many different versions out there. Some are even made with milk instead of egg yolk and vegetable oil instead of olive oil. If a restaurant is willing to cut corners in this way with the very first thing they present you with however, it might be worth wondering what they might do with the rest of the meal…
*I have been so intrigued by the pure whiteness of some of these sauces that I wondered if they haven’t used Dulux All Purpose Emulsion. I decided to try it once and grated some garlic into a tester pot. Remarkably similar in taste and texture.
**An easy way to remember which is which: Lady Chatterley is once again reaching crisis point with Mellor’s in his lodge. She refers to the gamekeeper as ‘My knight of the Shining Pestle.’ I think that leaves us pretty clear as to which is the pestle and which the mortar.