Rose Prince has a recipe for a Provençal, Grand Aïoli-style dish in the Telegraph this weekend – a plate of baked cod with Aïoli, raw vegetables and new potatoes, which I thought would sounded pretty perfect for a July lunch. I decided to make something similar, but using roasted salmon and a fennel Aïoli instead, the fennel giving that faintly aniseedy flavour of the south of France; of summer holidays and a sun-warmed back.
I always think that Aïoli, that classic emulsion of oils, lemon and garlic is to July as Hollandaise is to May: it’s a high summer sauce, rich and enveloping just like Hollandaise, but crucially served cold, making it more like a mayonnaise, and therefore more suitable for sunny patios, hot afternoons and smaller appetites. It goes with just about anything, and you can either serve it plain or add whatever you like to it – cayenne pepper, mustard or mint would all work well.
This dish is extremely easy to put together and requires only minimal kitchen time. The only advice with this dish is, as Rose Prince says, ‘be lazy in the kitchen but work hard at shopping for ingredients’: buy good-quality olive oil; free-range eggs and the freshest, firmest salmon you can find.
Prince notes that there is ‘great joy in unloading a bag that overflows with whole fennel heads, and sweet-smelling, damp paper parcels full of fish’ and indeed there is. ‘This, alongside sitting in the sun and loving the view, is my greatest pleasure; my kind of downtime’.
This Aïoli uses fennel leaf rather than the bulb for a much gentler fennel hit. Experiment with different flavours or try this just with the lemon and garlic. Either way it’s a lovely basic sauce to have in your repertoire
1 large egg yolk
1 small garlic clove, crushed and diced
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
A few sprigs of fennel
Whisk egg yolk, garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. water in a bowl to blend well. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the sunflower oil, 1 teaspoonful at a time, until the sauce is thickened and emulsified. Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season the aïoli with lemon juice, pepper, and salt and chop in the fennel leaves before serving to taste.