Not the kind you get in help-yourself salad bars and cafés – this is the real thing. Eggs, boiled – not hard, but with a bit of squidge at the centre – anointed with a shimmering, golden emulsion laced with a little garlic. I have to admit, this is probably my most favourite starter. I like to serve it with sliced cornichons or pickled cucumbers and tiny black Provençal olives.
First, place a medium-sized mixing bowl on a damp tea cloth so it will remain steady and leave you both hands free to make the mayonnaise – one to drip the oil, the other to hold an electric hand whisk.
Next, measure out the oil into a jug. Now put the egg yolks into the bowl, adding the garlic, mustard powder, salt and a little freshly milled black pepper and mix all of these together well. Then, holding the jug of oil in one hand and the whisk in the other, add just a drop of oil to the egg mixture and whisk this in. However stupid it may sound, the key to a successful mayonnaise is making sure each drop of oil is thoroughly whisked in before adding the next drop. It won't take all day, because after a few minutes – once you've added several drops of oil – the mixture will begin to thicken and go very stiff and lumpy. When it gets to this stage, you need to add the vinegar, which will thin it.
Now the critical point has passed, you can begin pouring in the oil in large drops, keeping the whisk going all the time. When all the oil has been added, taste and add more salt and freshly milled black pepper, if it needs it.
If you'd like the mayonnaise to be a bit lighter, add 2 tablespoons of boiling water and whisk it in.
Mayonnaise only curdles when you add the oil too quickly at the beginning. If that happens, don't despair. All you need to do is put a fresh egg yolk into a clean basin, add the curdled mixture to it drop by drop, then continue adding the rest of the oil as though nothing had happened.
Now place the eggs in a pan in cold water. Bring them up to the boil and boil for 6 minutes, then cool them rapidly under cold, running water and leave them in the cold water for about 2 minutes. Next, remove them from the water, peel off the shells, cover the eggs with clingfilm, and leave them in a cool place until needed.
Now cut the eggs in half, arranging three halves on each plate, top with a heaped tablespoon of the mayonnaise and garnish with the cornichons and olives.
Any leftover mayonnaise should be stored in a screw-top jar in the fridge, but for no longer than a week.
Note: You could also serve this with a couple of anchovies per person draped over the mayonnaise in a criss-cross pattern.
_This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three and Delia's Vegetarian Collection._