Le Grand Aioli

Le Grand Aioli

Anyone familiar with this Mediterranean dish, will know it is traditionally made with cod, sometimes salted, but Pollack or hake, both sustainable members of the cod family with similarly big, creamy flakes of fish, are good, marginally less expensive alternatives. The whole fish is poached in a tasty broth - too good to waste, and the basis for fish soup or risotto - served surrounded by young seasonal Mediterranean vegetables, arranged attractively in clumps of colour, interspersed with golden-yolked, hard-boiled eggs, maybe snails, and wedges of lemon. A bowl of garlicky aioli goes with the fish and a bottle of olive oil, ideally the same one used to make the aioli, seasons the vegetables. It is very straightforward to make, with much of the preparation done in advance, and suits being served hot or tepid, so ideal whatever the weather. This particular version is made with a couple of British seaside ingredients - samphire and winkles - both bought from my fishmonger. If you prefer, leave them out.

Begin by preparing the court-bouillon. Trim, scrape and chunk the carrots. Peel and slice the onion, chop the celery and slice the lemon. Pile vegetables, lemon, 1 tsp salt, cloves, peppers and bay in a fish kettle, large pan or deep roasting tin that can accommodate the fish. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the aioli. Ensure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Sprinkle with a little salt and crush to a smooth, juicy paste. Beat the egg yolks smooth, stir in the garlic and gradually beat in the oil in a thin stream, beating continuously, adding a little lemon juice and then more oil until it is used up and the mayonnaise is thick and glossy.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, boil the eggs in a small pan of water for 9 minutes. Scoop out of the pan. Crack the shell all over. If using fresh winkles, wash in several changes of water then, using the egg water, add 2 tsp salt and boil for 2 minutes. Drain. Top and tail the beans. Trim the carrots. Trim the spring onions. Rinse the samphire. Scrape the potatoes. Add 2 tsp salt to the big pan of boiling water. Add the beans, return to boil and boil for 3 minutes. Scoop into a basin of ice-cold water. Drain. Boil the carrots for 3 minutes. Scoop into a colander to drain. Repeat with the spring onions and samphire, draining as before. Boil the potatoes until tender in the same water. Lift out and reserve. If serving the vegetables hot, keep the water hot, ready for re-heating the vegetables in the colander suspended over the water.

Bring the court-bouillon to the boil and slip in the fish. Return to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with lid or foil, and leave for 30 minutes. Lift the fish onto a large, white platter that can hold fish and vegetables and peel away the exposed skin. Cover with foil to keep warm while you re-heat the vegetables. Arrange vegetables, winkles, peeled, halved eggs and lemon wedges around the fish, adding clumps of parsley. Serve with the bottle of oil, aioli, sea salt and a cork stuck with pins for winkling (behind their black trap door).

Serves 6-8

Prep: 40 min

Cook: 40 min



2kg, approx, cod, hake or Pollack,

head removed, trimmed and descaled.

8 large eggs

500g-1kg fresh or frozen winkles

400g fine green beans

24 young carrots

24 bulbous spring onions

400g samphire

1kg small new potatoes

for the court-boullion:

2 litres water

3 large carrots

1 large onion

2 celery sticks

4 cloves

6 black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 lemon

for the aioli:

3 large garlic cloves, preferably new season

3 large egg yolks

400ml decent olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

50g bunch flat leaf parsley

3 lemons

olive oil and Maldon sea salt to serve