No pain — no gain is the best way to describe this delicious salad dressing that is so totally worth the effort. Shake out your arm muscles and have ready:
A wire balloon whisk, a deep wide-bottom bowl, an egg yolk or two, a 1/2-inch strip of anchovy paste, 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a bit of flaked sea salt to bash into a crushed garlic clove, and a generous grind of black pepper. That’s the support wear, the undies if you will, for your dressing. The preparation. The warm-up. Whisk it together thoroughly, including the garlic clove that you’ve bashed in a mortar and pestle to a creamy texture in the salt.
Now comes the tart-wear: every dressing needs acidity. Vinegar. I use white wine vinegar. Sauvignon Blanc white wine vinegar by Aspall. I’ve tried all other sorts and varieties. White wine vinegar with tarragon. Champagne vinegar. White balsamic. Raspberry balsamic. I have wasted so much money on vinegar, and yet I always come back to bog standard white wine vinegar. I do have some lovely bottles and impressive non-drip spouts though, thanks to the Oil & Vinegar shop.
And the tart-wear is followed by a slick, glistening cover-up: oil. I use a combination of 1/2 rapeseed or vegetable oil and 1/2 mild olive oil. The light and mild olive oil, by the way, does not mean reduced calories. It simply means that the flavour is light and mild. Both rapeseed and olive oil are high in Omegas, which is important for good heart health. I measure 100ml of rapeseed or vegetable oil into a measuring cup, and start sloshing-dribbling it into the bowl with the beaten egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, garlic, etc. I place the bowl at a tilt with a towel wrapped around the bottom to keep it at an angle and to prevent it scooting across the work surface. Drop by drop is the way to start, beating the oil with your whisk into the vinegar mixture like a desperate jockey on a hobby (rocking) horse. This is the aerobic bit. Soon your heart will beat at a good pronounced pace, your arm muscles will scream “You know you can buy this stuff without any effort whatsoever, right?” and your shoulder will whimper like a big cry baby.
When you’ve whisked the last of that 100ml oil into the mixture, measure out another 100ml of olive oil, and start whisking again … telling your muscles “No pain – No gain, sissy!” Whisk-whisk-whisk, until the dressing starts to thicken. Remember to add it slowly and whisk rapidly after each addition with an aim to emulsify the ingredients together into a thick, velvety luxurious fluid. It should start thickening up when 150ml in total is added. Whether you add the remaining 50ml is up to you. The more oil you add at this stage, the thicker the dressing but the milder the flavour. Taste and adjust seasoning. It should be clearly on the tart side or the flavour disappears into the salad greens after you toss everything together.
You’ll end up with about 250ml of delicious salad dressing. It’s fairly close to a Caesar dressing but not quite as fishy tasting because whole anchovy fillets aren’t used. Anchovy paste is much milder. Keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Ingredients and Method:
1-2 large egg yolk at room temperature (2 gives richer flavour)
1 small squirt of anchovy paste – about a half inch
1 garlic clove crushed with a pinch of salt into a paste
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
a generous grind of black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Whisk the above ingredients together thoroughly, and measure into a cup:
100ml rapeseed or vegetable oil
Add slowly, drop-by-drop, whisking after each addition until the measuring cup is empty. Now fill the same measuring cup with:
100ml olive oil
… and again — add slowly, drop-by-drop, whisking after each addition until the dressing starts to thicken, at which point you can add the oil more quickly. Taste and adjust seasoning, keeping in mind that the dressing should be very tart and acidic so its flavours stand out on its own merit. Toss dressing into dry salad leaves and herbs. Dressing won’t stick to wet leaves.
Note: a tablespoon of minced shallots in the dressing is also tasty.