27 April 2010


One of the five mother sauces, hollandaise sits alongside esteemed company in the French Haute Cuisine repetoire (the others being béchamel, espagnole, velouté and allemande).  Much as I love cooking, and have the utmost respect for the illustrious history that backs up the claims to greatness put forth by these sauces, I just don't like hollandaise.  It's too rich for me.  Or so I thought.  See, I'd always experienced hollandaise with eggs benedict.  The heavy richness of the sauce, combined with the richness of the eggs...yikes.  Too much for my under-developed palate.  However, after being stared at, as though I had grown a second head, by numerous people when they discovered my aversion to the most popular of the mother sauces, I decided that perhaps it behooved me to give it another try.

So I went to the hollandaise guru.  I knew that if anyone was going to give me a recipe for hollandaise which would win my tastebuds over, it would be Susan.  She's modest, but even she will admit quite freely that she makes a killer hollandaise.  And her partner, Amand, will happily back that up.  She sent me two recipes - "one using butter and one using extra light olive oil - depending on what you have to hand and how you feel about your arteries".  I've tried them both.  The olive oil one is wicked, though obviously missing that little bit of je ne sais quoi that the sauce gets from being made with butter.  The butter one was as rich as I'd feared, but I found a way to make it work for me - drizzled over grilled (or BBQed) zucchini.  It's changed the way I look at vegetables, especcially coming into winter when they don't have quite as much flavour, and when, let's be honest, we want sauces to keep us warm.  I'm looking forward to trying it with green beans and, when the season starts again, asparagus. 

So, here they are - Susan's smashing sauces (the olive oil one comes, so she tells me, from a Mr Ramsay, I presume she means Gordon):

Butter Hollandaise

225gm of slowly melted butter (if you melt it too quickly, it doesn't work as good - trust me on this)
3 large egg yolks
2 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp lemon juice (though I often use more and will grate the rind in too - depends on how you like your lemon).
pinch of salt
  1. In a double boiler (or in a bowl resting over some slowly simmer water, making sure the simmering water does not reach the base of the bowl - you don't want to accidently make lemon flavoured scrambled eggs), whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice/zest, water and salt.
  2. Once that is all incorporated VERY slowly add the melted butter. You need to do this slowly at first so that the emulsion takes - if you do it too quickly you add too much fat for the yolks to deal with, and the sauce won't work. After you've added about a third of the butter slowly you add the rest with more speed, but starting off slowly is key. Whisk whisk whisk! It will end up all yummy and unctious and thick. Happiness with hollandaise is never far away!
  3. Taste at this point and see if you need to add anything - I do like a puncy lemon flavour, and I am known to add in chopped parsley/coriander/dill here if I have these things in my fridge or garden. Some people like adding a pinch of cayenne pepper - it really is your call. Then, you're done.
  4. Also, if you're leaving the sauce (and this applies for the olive oil recipe to follow too) and it starts to thicken or forms a bit of a skin, add in another tablespoon or so of warm water. This happens because the water content is evaporating out, so this is easily fixed by adding a smidge of water back in and whisking well.
Olive Oil Hollandaise (courtesy of one Mr Ramsay)

3 egg yolks
grated zest and juice of a lemon
8 coriander seeds, crushed (optional - I wouldn't go out and buy them especially)
150mls light olive oil (trust me, you don't want to use regular olive oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Put the egg yolks, zest/juice, coriander and 1 tbsp of warm water into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture is pale, creamy and falls in a slow ribbon (this can be a touch tricky, but takes near on about 4-5 mins).
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a further 3 minutes until the mixture has cooled slightly. Whisk in 1 tbsp olive oil, then gradually whisk in the rest in a thin steady stream until it is all incorporated and the sauce is a good coating consistency. Season with salt and pepper to tase and add a little extra lemon if you think it needs it. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little warm water.
Nb: Susan says - "if you have leftover sauce, it refridgerates nicely and turns into hollandaise butter. Which you can then use as a spread on toast or in a sandwhich. Amand thinks this is almost better than the sauce itself. Almost."  Thanks Sus!!!! 


  1. Ooo err - am thoroughly chuffed that you actually tried not one but both!

    Am v happy that you like - and that my instructions worked :)

  2. Two additions for a Hollandaise lover.
    White Pepper adds a zing...
    Maggi Seasoning (wikipedia it) which adds a subtle flavoring if you like Hollandaise on a steak. ( a casual observer in the US )

  3. Ooooh, I love it - hollandaise on steak! Definitely going to try that, perhaps with the oil-based one...