In an ideal world, one of these happy girls will help greatly in the successful execution of this recipe!
A hard boiled free range egg, peeled and halved, still slightly warm, and with a blob of mayonnaise on top is one of my favourite foods.
The eggs I am talking about here, Oeufs Mimosa, are rather more complicated than that and with the addition of prawns or shrimps,a bit more demanding to assemble, but wow, they are a treat. The hard boiled eggs with shells removed are halved. Then the sieved yolks are mixed with mayonnaise and finely chopped chives. A couple of shrimps or prawns are secreted in the hollow egg whites and then the rich egg yolk and mayonnaise is carefully mounded on top. A coating of thinned mayonnaise conceals all of that and the final flourish is a little of the reserved sieved egg yolk sprinkled over the top. It is from the final sprinkling of egg yolk that the dish gets its name, as it has the same appearance as the delicate blossom of a mimosa tree.
You need to start with good eggs to make this recipe worthwhile. Then you will need very fresh shrimps or prawns and crucially, home made mayonnaise. It irritates me somewhat to have to attach the word “home made” to mayonnaise, but unfortunately if I don’t it appears that I might be talking about that pretend stuff that passes for mayonnaise generally. As if!
If I was asked to pick five dishes that could transform the food of any household from average to a great deal better, then mayonnaise made at home would certainly be in that list. Such a fuss is made about the difficulty of making it yourself, that many people are scared away from even trying. I include the recipe here and urge you to try it. A t some point in your career it will curdle on you and I include instructions on how to save a curdled mayonnaise. Don’t be depressed when that moment arrives, but console yourself by the fact that when a dish goes wrong and you retrieve it, then you have learnt so much more about the recipe and it is considerably less likely to happen again.
4 free range eggs
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
16 cooked shrimps or 8 cooked prawns
2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper
Hard boil the eggs by gently dropping into a saucepan of boiling, salted water and boiling for exactly 10 minutes. Remove immediately from the water and cool under a running tap. Shell the eggs and halve carefully, lengthways. Remove the cooked yolks and pass through a fine sieve, using the back of a spoon to help you. Reserve 1 generous tablespoon of the yolk for decoration. Mix the remaining sieved egg yolk with 4 tablespoons of the mayonnaise. Add the chives, mix, taste and correct seasoning.
Place the shrimps or prawns in the hollowed out egg whites. Carefully spoon or pipe the mayonnaise mixture on top of the fish. Smooth over the tops to achieve a neat finish.
Thin out the remaining 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with warm water, about 1 tablespoon, to achieve a coating consistency. Go cautiously here, as it is very easy to add too much water and have an overly thin result, that runs off rather than coats the eggs.
Drape the coating mayonnaise over the stuffed eggs and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Finally sprinkle the tops of the eggs with the reserved egg yolk.
Serve with really fresh greens, like watercress or wild garlic leaves or crisp lollo lettuce leaves. Delicate chervil leaves and a few of the new season chives are also delicious and that is what I have used in the attatched photograph.
Mayonnaise is an immensely important sauce. It pairs perfectly with many different ingredients. Poached salmon or trout are sublime with it. A blob of it, on top of a halved hard boiled egg, still a little warm from the pot, is one of my favourite foods. With a slice of warm roast chicken, it makes the best sandwich. Lobster, prawns, shrimps, mussels, cockles and clams lap it up. It accepts lots of different flavours happily. Herbs, gherkin, anchovy, spices, chilli, garlic crushed raw or roasted, tomato, all work well when stirred into the sauce. I sometimes add the juices from a foil or parchment baked fish to it, to thin, warm and flavour all at the same time. The roast garlic version can be thinned with a little gravy from the roasting pan of lamb or beef, and again served warm.
Some books will terrify you with words of warning before you start making the sauce. Others are perhaps a little casual in their approach, all I will say, is to be a bit careful, take your time and just remember the important rules when making the sauce. Once you have made it once or twice, making it wont cause you a second thought and by then you will realize that there is simply no substitute for the real thing. The sauce can be made by hand or in a food processor. The hand made sauce will be softer, the machine made one firmer. Let us be clear, there is no comparison whatsoever between mayonnaise from a shop bought jar and the real thing. I f you use good eggs and oil, this sauce can transform the foods you serve with it.
2 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon of French mustard
1 dessertspoon of white wine vinegar or lemon juice
8 fl oz /250ml olive oil (if you find the flavour of olive oil to strong, use a proportion of sunflower oil, eg; two thirds sunflower oil to one third olive oil)
Salt and pepper
Place the eggs, mustard, vinegar or lemon, pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Drop the oil very slowly on to the egg mix, whisking all the time. Adding the oil slowly is the key to success here and other than using good ingredients it is the only rule you need to remember. If your arm gets tired, it is fine to leave it for a minute or two before starting again. Gradually the mixture will start to thicken. You can start to add the oil a little bit more quickly now but do not get carried away by your success. There is only a certain speed at which the eggs can absorb the oil so that an emulsion is created. Caution is needed right up until all the oil has been whisked in. Taste and correct seasoning.
If the mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quit thin and oily on top. If this happens, put another egg yolk into a clean bowl and whisk in the curdled mayonnaise, a teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.
Store the mayonnaise in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep happily for a week or more.
When you can make the basic mayonnaise, you have the basis for dozens of variations to suit different dishes.