Oh I do like

…to be beside the seaside, oh I do like a sardine for my tea, oh I do like to roll my spuds in may-on-naise, and some fine green sauce, Tiddely-om-pom-pom! 

My Dad was 70 on Saturday and so, agreeing a week of merrymaking was in order, we are all – all being the celebrated one, Mum, my brother Ben, Kate, their little boy Stanley, my sister Rosie, Paul, their little girl Beattie, Luca and I – staying in a farmhouse in Penare in Southwest Cornwall. Even the pretty persistent rain hasn’t dampened our spirits (actually that’s a lie, it drenched our spirits on Wednesday, thank god for the fudge) or appreciation of the pure loveliness of this part of England.

Secluded, seductive wood-fringed pebble beeches and tiny, unspoiled coves punctuate the undulating coastline. Serpentine cliffs provide a craggy and fierce backdrop to white-sand beaches and the turquoise ocean. Vast gorse and heather covered moorlands are dotted with hairy buttercups and grazing ponies. There are quaint shops in every town, village and hamlet whose sole purpose is selling clotted cream fudge. The ratio of pubs to people is excellent. Dark-green pastures and lush, often magnificent gardens thrive and thrill in Cornwall’s unique damp, warm and almost tropical micro climate.

We’ve been threading our way through leafy lanes over babbling brooks (Really! proper bona fide babbling brooks) in search of tiny fishing villages where we take alternating gulps of salty sea air and local beer. We’ve been to Lizard lighthouse, Roskilly ice-cream farm, Helford, Kynance cove, Gillan cove (where we happened upon a keg of beer on the beach with a note attached inviting us to help ourselves) and St Ives, which is, despite the crowds, twee shops and nostalgia for its artistic heyday, as luminous and lovely as the art it inspired.

We’ve eaten well, Cornish crab, whitebait with proper tartare sauce, hake baked with potatoes, almost perfect fish and chips, local lamb with new potatoes, Cornish yarg, Cornish blue, broad beans, butter lettuce and curly kale from the local allotments, raspberries with sugar and thick, yellow clotted cream, sea-salt and caramel ice-cream (that rivalled anything from my favourite gelateria in Rome), copious quantities of clotted cream fudge, treacle tart, gooseberry fool, gooseberry tart and on Tuesday evening sardines.

My brother Ben undertook the fishy investigations and arranged to pick up 18 freshly caught sardines from the Cadgwith Fishseller. I’m not sure we should have driven down to this exquisite tiny end-of-the-world fishing village wedged into a cleft in the silver-grey rock. But we did. ‘Bloody tourists‘ a local (a crusty old sea-dog no less) snarled as we snaked the car back up the long and winding road with our spankingly fresh fish.

This post should be tagged Bencooks as my brother took charge of both cleaning the sardines – slitting along the bottom of each fish from the throat to the rear vent, then pulling out the innards and rinsing the inside of the fish – and then cooking them – perfectly it must be said, charred on the outside, tender within – on the BBQ. He also made mayonnaise, by hand, whilst sipping locally brewed, optimistically named doombar beer.

I thought I’d already written about making mayonnaise, I’ve certainly rattled on about how much I like this glorious, creamy, silky- smooth ointment of egg yolks, oil and lemon juice, a home-made concoction incomparable to even the smartest commercially produced jar full . But having trawled backwards through my sporadic posts (my shoddy index of recipes was no help) it appears I haven’t. This then, seems like an opportune moment.

I avoided making mayonnaise for many years, believing it to be fiendishly difficult and liable to curdle, split or suffer some other terrible egg suspension/emulsion fate at any moment! Then one evening a few years ago, whilst leaning up against my friends kitchen counter, glass in hand, my tongue a-wagging, she whipped up some mayonnaise. Just like that. No fuss, no palava, no curdling. I peered into her bowl of glorious yellow ointment, ‘What was her secret?’ I whispered in case I really was mayonnaise jinxed and my voice split her master bowl. She looked bemused. There was, as far as she was concerned, no secret and certainly no reason for mayonnaise anxiety (which is rather like pastry and custard anxiety only worse.) Making mayonnaise was, with sound advice and practice, a pretty straightforward affair.

And so the advice: eggs at room temperature, a heavy bowl which doesn’t slide all over the counter, a small whisk, adding the oil (a mixture of groundnut and olive oil) very very slowly, whisking energetically between each addition and – the vital bit – practice. Lots and lots of practice, so you – and I know this might sound pretentious – learn feel the moment when the yolk and oil transform, seize really into an ointment, when the speed you add the oil is instinctive, when the texture feels right – feels like mayonnaise. And if it does split? Pour yourself a glass of wine and then add a drop of boiling water to the mixture. If that doesn’t work start again with another egg yolk in a clean bowl. Beat the yolk and then slowly whisk in the curdled mixture.

But enough talk of curdling, let the whisking begin.


  • 2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
  • salt
  • 225 ml groundnut oil
  • 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon or dab of Dijon mustard

In a heavy bowl (which doesn’t require too much effort or holding to keep it firm) start whisking the egg yolks with a generous pinch of salt.

After a minutes, when the yolks are thick and sticky, start adding the groundnut oil very gradually – by very gradually I mean drop by drop and then a very thin stream. Do not rush and keep whisking as you add the oil.

Keep adding the oil until the mayonnaise seizes into a very thick ointment, at this point you can relax and add the groundnut oil in a slightly thicker stream.

When you have added all the groundnut oil, add the extra virgin olive oil (again in a thin stream) and keep whisking until you have a smooth, silky and firm mayonnaise. You may not need to add all the olive oil. Add a few drops of lemon juice or a dab of mustard, whisk, taste and then, if necessary a few drops/dab more. Add salt as you like.

Dollop on Tiddely-om-pom-pom!.

May I recommend serving your home-made mayonnaise with freshly grilled sardines, waxy new potatoes, a spoonful of salsa verde and a slice of lemon. And for pudding (our tea this afternoon, my niece Bea was beside herself with cream induced excitement) raspberries with sugar and Cornish clotted cream. I hope you are having a good summer.


Filed under Eggs, fish, food, In praise of, olive oil, Rachel's Diary, recipes

24 responses to “Oh I do like

  1. It’s no wonder Bea was excited at the thought of raspberries and clotted cream – who wouldn’t be! The mayonnaise looks very good too. I’ve always used a bamix to make mayonnaise, but it must be very satisfying – using a whisk and ending up with a bowl of creamy mayo that’s all your own work.

    • rachel

      Who wouldn’t be indeed? well maybe a strange non-cream-lover! In truth we were all as excited as Bea. Mayo-making is satisfying and with a bit of practice (and a nifty little whisk) not that time consuming.

  2. I’ve been toying with the idea of making mayonnaise for a few weeks now-an abundance of pavlovas leaving me with unwanted egg yolks. However the sensible pregnant part of me, while drinking my daily g&t, cautions against it (somewhat randomly, I agree).
    We once upon a time -before children – had a great Cornwall holiday. My overriding memory is of being defeated by ‘hedgehogs’ – a ball of icecream on a stick dipped in clotted cream, in turn dipped in sprinkles, then back into the clotted cream just for good measure. My husband ploughed through, then didn’t eat again for about 4 days.
    Hope the sunshines for you and your beautiful boy at some point.

    • rachel

      The Sun did shine and we had a glorious day at the beach. Then it rained. But lets talk more about hedgehogs! they sound brilliant and I am so disappointed not to have eaten one.

  3. Homemade mayonnaise is one of my favourite things, and so are sardines! I like to put a handful of chopped leafy herbs and some lime in mine. I miss summer! Love this post.

  4. Oh my, it seems your brother is quite talented. It must run in the family. I really need one of those plates of sardines, just like your second to last photo. I can’t even look back. Too much deliciousness.

    • rachel

      He is and very bossy too. Glad you appreciate the photo, I wondered if everyone might think they looked like sad charred things (they were charred but that’s the point). Happy 10th xx

  5. Eha

    Thank you for the delightful fishy wander around Cornwall! Altho’ I have visited England so many times, that part of the country, so oft the background of fave books and, of course, Rick Stein’s fish cookery, i know but thru’ a virtual world! The sardines seem to grow big there: would not mind a plate with that delicious homemade mayonnaise later . . . Ah well!

    • rachel

      The fish and chips were at Rick Steins place in Falmouth and they were pretty damn perfect (fried in beef dripping). I highly recommend them for you next visit.

  6. Ah a lovely English seaside holiday and with a crusty old sea dog in there too. Love it. Shame about the awful weather. My eye happened to catch Rome on the international weather report two days ago with its sun and temp of 36 degrees and I thought of you, rather jealously. But now I find you are here enjoying the rain too. Happy birthday to your Dad, what a lovely way to spend it. Enjoy! x

    • rachel

      Hey Kath – oh yes the rain and very grey..but we did have a couple of glorious days and all was forgiven. back in very hot Rome now and actually missing the cool. I think you might be about to get some more sun in the Uk (hope so). Hope you have a nice summer with your girls.

  7. I do like to be by the sea too- wish I was there now. Grilled sardines and mayo is just the thing I would want, too.

  8. Sounds like a most perfect meal punctuated by its simplicity. You’re making me long for a trip to the craggy and fierce coast of England. It’s craggy and fierce here in Brooklyn at the moment, but for totally different reasons. I’d trade it for a cool coastal breeze and rain, especially if it came with those grilled sardines.

    • rachel

      It was pretty perfect and eaten in good company while all the little ones slept (a rare treat). I like the sound of craggy and fierce Brooklyn, I’d trade the heat of Rome for a few days downtown.

  9. Sardines in Cornwall – heaven. Souvenir of a recent trip smuggled back like a heart on ice, I have some frozen ones in the freezer just waiting for a warm enough day to make the eating right. It’s not the same but I’m hoping the sea still lingers on them. And while bearnaise is something we make all the time, it’s been a while since mayo was made, not bought. If the wretched sun ever shines, that’s what’s on the menu.

  10. Oh I do like the peek at this seaside holiday you’ve given us. Ben did a smashing job with the sardines. I’ve never seen such nice sized ones. You’ve done a great service, demystifying the silken glory of simply whisked mayo…

    • rachel

      silken glory – perfect description. I have been thinking about chocolate sorbet all day thanks to your post x

  11. Thanks for sharing your Cornwall interlude with us, so very wonderful! What a feast from the simplest of things.

  12. Clotted cream, grilled sardines, homemade mayo… I’m sold. Why wasn’t I invited??

  13. kaitelnafibou1971

    Reblogged this on Christine Robinson Site and commented:

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