Depending on where in the Mediterranean you find yourself, you are most likely to know this sauce under a plethora of different names such as ajoaceite, alioli, allioli or as it is most commonly known in the United Kingdom under its French name of aïoli. Its name literally translates as garlic and oil (from Latin allium + oleum) and it is just that, an emulsion of both these ingredients much like a mayonnaise. It goes great with meat, fish, vegetables and in Valencia it is traditional to eat it with some rice dishes or fideua like this one.
There are many purists out there that will argue to death that the ONLY way to make authentic ajoaceite is by using the pestle and mortar method but times have changed and we now have electricity. If our ancestors, who worked themselves to the bone, knew about electricity I really doubt they would be that adamant about using their own elbow grease! I think most purists prefer to make it with a pestle and mortar to cling on to the old ways as they believe it is more “authentic”. I, on the other hand think that if there has been a technological advance that can help you do do something with greater ease than before then why heavens not take full advantage of it? You don’t see many people going to the river to wash their clothes anymore, do you?
My tried and tested method to make ajoaceite is by using a hand immersion blender. It is the only way that I can achieve perfect ajoaceite every single time without it ever splitting.
Talking about splitting, there is a weird Spanish superstition that if you are a female and you are on your period, the ajoaceite will split when making it. I’ve had to come to the rescue on many occasions to cater our ajoaceite needs when someone has been in this position. My mother (who can’t use that excuse anymore) and female cousins all swear that this is true but I have a funny feeling they just use it as a good excuse to get away with slaving away: kudos to them if this is really the case!
Alternatively, you can make this ajoaceite by swapping the egg for milk. Use 1 part milk (room temperature), 2 parts vegetable oil and follow the same recipe as below.
1 egg, whole
1 garlic clove
Pinch rock salt (or table salt)
1 glass vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil as it is too strong)
Lemon juice, a few drops
1 Put garlic clove and salt into a container and blitz with a hand immersion blender.
2 Add lemon juice, vegetable oil and egg.
The trick is to insert the hand blender right to the bottom of the container and start to blitz without stopping or moving the blender. You should start to see the mixture emulsifying at the bottom of the container. It is best to use a container where the blender fits snugly instead of having a large surface area.
Once most is emulsified you can start to lift the blender to incorporate the rest of the oil and start to move the blender up and down, slowly and gently. Once most oil has emulsified you can move the blender up and down faster until you get it to the thickness that you desire.