One of the nicest things about this time of year is that everything stops. Suddenly, there is time to do things like squander a whole morning looking through old photos in your pyjamas, or embark on a spontaneous decluttering toy-culling frenzy to make room for the new. And, of course, there is time to cook!
The other day we went on a blustery Boxing Day walk at what felt like the crack of dawn but was really 10am and, after a couple of hours out and about, felt therefore perfectly justified in heading home for a late morning sherry (Tom, not me – I can’t drink fortified things, more is the pity) and a very leisurely and decadent breakfast of eggs royale (without the muffin, obv).
This was the first time I’ve felt brave enough to depart from my known breakfast repertoire in order to try the extremely easy-peasy (but nerve-wracking just by virtue of being new) version of hollandaise sauce that I learned during my week at Leiths. I have made hollandaise before, but it’s one of those fearful sauces that has the potential to split. And a split sauce means not only a waste of both butter and time but, more than that, the colossal disappointment of having to be hollandaise-less.
This version, though, is more like making mayonnaise, which I do all the time and therefore feel fearless about. I’m sure there are some people out there who thing that if you are not fiddling around with a bain-marie, constant whisking and extreme red-faced tension, then it’s not proper. But, frankly, if they do it at Leiths, then it’s proper enough for me. More importantly though it’s completely darned delicious! Plus I can’t tell you how do-able it felt (don’t be spooked by the reduction, which is the work of moments). In fact my main fear about this is that it’s *so* easy to make, we are going to start making it at the drop of a hat, willy nilly, and then buttery ruin will ensue as none of our trousers will fit any more. Oh dear.
For the reduction
50ml white wine vinegar
50 ml water
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 mace blade
For the sauce
150 g unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
Few drops lemon juice, to taste
salt and white ground pepper
Since this was a spontaneous affair, I had to forgo the mace for the reduction, as we didn’t have any. And although I’m sure mace adds to the flavour, I didn’t rue the lack of it.
Make the reduction by putting ingredients into a small pan and bringing it to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by at least two thirds. Keep an eye out as this happens quite quickly. Leave to cool.
Then place your egg yolk, 2 tsp of reduction and pinch of salt into your blender. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once it is starting to separate and is bubbling, pour a little into the blender with the motor running. Add a little more and the emulsion should be created. Continue to add the butter, very slowly, in a thin stream until all but the milk solids are added. Avoid adding the solids as they can thin the sauce. Taste and season with more reduction, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, poach a couple of eggs (or get a willing assistant to, as timing is of the essence with this dish) and place lovingly onto some smoked salmon, although ham works too.