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Photographs © Derek Richmond 2008

Quail eggs seem rather posh.  Is it that a thing so small and expensive must be for the special and precious of this world?  Petit fours, tartlettes, canapés,  these diminutive dishes remind us of the upper class. 

Growing up in London and speaking rather proper English led others to assume I was posh and came from money.  Far from the fact, I came from modest beginnings, though did have rather superior taste thanks to parents who read well and paid attention to the world around them. At a young age I was introduced to the idea, if not the direct experience, of fine things.

Visiting Harrods was considered part of my education.  This gargantuan department store is sadly no longer the epitome of high class purveyance it once was.  Their food displays were a sight to behold and staff gave every customer their gracious time and attention.  Nowadays Harrods is a theme park.  But, it was where at 6 or 7 years old I came across this perfectly adorable child sized foodstuff, as precious and as diverse in appearance as my collection of marbles.

Quail eggs are creamy and delicate and delicious.  They are also beautiful to look at.  Once cracked or cooked and peeled, the interior shell colour is such a calm blue, the kind of hue I should like to put through my hair when I am old and gray.  

I digress.  I bought a dozen quail eggs and because my mood was “in for a penny in for a pound”, I decided to make some aioli also.

Aioli is a mayonnaise made with egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice and oil.  There is nothing quite like fresh mayonnaise and the process is ever so easy given a half hour of contemplative dribbling and pounding with a pestle and mortar.  I followed Rick Stein‘s recipe from his book ‘English Seafood Cookery’.  He allows for the use of a food processor as an alternative to the pestle and mortar which I will too if you lack the latter but I hasten you to purchase one for it more simply returns you to the process of cooking.  

Rick Stein’s Aioli

8 cloves of garlic

2 fresh egg yolks

Juice of a quarter lemon

A good pinch of (coarse sea) salt

12 fl. oz of good virgin olive oil (I find extra virgin to be a little too bitter so I combine it with sunflower in a quantity of 2/3 to a 1/3)

Reduce the garlic to a puree with a pestle (this process is aided by adding your coarse sea salt at this stage), add egg yolks and lemon juice and beat in (with a whisk) the oil in (a very slow and) steady drizzle.(the additions in parenthesis are my additions to the recipe instructions)

I also added chopped fresh dill.

In researching aioli I came across a book that I will buy.  Richard Olney wrote ‘Simple French Food’ in 1974. He said, “By knowing and accepting rules, one frees oneself of rules’.  This is surely the basis of cooking and the crux of creativity.  

Know what you speak of and then speak your own mind.