Good old pestle and mortar

Jamie Oliver’s enthusiasm for the pestle and mortar is contagious.

Indeed, I confess to having bought mine after he enthused the virtues of such gadget in his earlier series of The Naked Chef. Then, it lay neglected for a long time until I moved on my own and I became its number one fan. I can’t think of any other thing which is so versatile: you can make pesto, bash spices, grind pepper and even, make mayonnaise. Well, aïoli at least. When you have as few gadgets as I do in the kitchen this one becomes invaluable.

So there I was the other day watching Jamie’s antics around several countries and having a go at cooking the local dishes.

As he was pounding ingredients in his pestle and mortar on an Andalusian beach he seemed totally happy. Apart from his knees (where he placed the chopping board), a knife, and the pestle and mortar he didn’t seem to need anything else to cook. And I can totally empathise with the lack of space.

So when I saw him making aïoli with just three ingredients I knew I had to try it.

Even though I had fulfilled my culinary duty of the day (I’d just made marinated olives), I set out to making aïoli with home-made nachos.

Now aïoli is not for the faint-hearted and you do have to love garlic. It is deceptively simple, just garlic, salt and oil, but as it’s often the case with seemingly simple things, it can go wrong.

Luckily mine didn’t split but you do have to have some patience (and some strength in your arm) if you’re doing it Jamie’s way with the pestle and mortar. It will be dead easy with a blender or a liquidizer but I haven’t got one.

I realised half way through doing it that Jamie’s programme had been brilliantly edited for mine took a lot longer. Nevertheless I was happy, as only someone who’s doing something productive can feel and I almost felt like Jamie, minus the beach, the sun and the Spanish sea of course.

Aïoli – adapted from Jamie’s website

For the aioli:

• 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
• a pinch of saffron (I didn’t have any left so mine looks white, unlike Jamie’s)
• sea salt
• 50ml olive oil
• 50ml good-quality Spanish extra virgin olive oil

Pound and mush up the garlic, saffron and a good pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle until you’ve got a smooth vibrant orange paste. Use the pestle to mix in the olive oil, a drizzle at a time. Be patient and wait until you’ve got a smooth emulsion before adding the next drizzle. Do the same with the extra virgin olive oil. If it splits, pour the mixture out, pound some more garlic and salt together, then really slowly add the split mixture to that. Be patient! Have a taste. Initially it will be fiery and you’ll think you don’t like it, but it’s supposed to be that way. Add a squeeze or two of juice from your peeled lemon and taste again.

Serve with home-made nachos. Also brilliant with fish or in a tomato salad.


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