I write this whilst cruising at 36,000 feet above France after a short visit to Nice – or, to be more precise, Golfe-Juan, which is about 25km along the coast from Nice and right next door to Cannes. The visit was one of our regular trips to see an old friend who has lived on the Cote d’Azur for many years. As an aside, and completely unrelated to the main point of this article, Golfe-Juan was the place where Napoleon first came ashore after his return from Elba in March 1815. Commemorative plaques abound, and there is a colourful annual celebratory event to mark what is the start of the Route Napoleon.
Anyway, I wanted to write a little about a dish that we had whilst we were here. I haven’t (to my knowledge) eaten Aioli before, and had believed (rather naively as it turns out) that it was just garlic mayonnaise with a posh French name.
What’s in an Aioli sauce?
Although Aioli is a sauce in it’s own right – made from crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, olive oil and lemon juice, in Provence it can also describe an entire dish, comprising boiled fish (usually salt cod), and boiled vegetables (potatoes, green beans, carrots), and boiled egg, as well as the aforementioned sauce. This isn’t the only recipe for Aioli sauce – as with all regional recipes, there are countless variations (don’t get me started about Bouillabaisse).
Le Grand Aioli
‘Le Grand Aioli’, to give the dish it’s proper name, is found on the menu of many restaurants in the South of France, but we found ours pre-prepared by the local fishmonger. At nearly 8 euros per portion, for a shop bought prepared meal it wasn’t cheap, but boy did it taste good – and the sauce couldn’t have been more garlicky… so make sure you both have one if dining out romantically.
We ate ours tiède (lukewarm), but it can also be eaten at room temperature. If a boiled meal doesn’t sound like a treat to you, you might have a change of heart after eating Le Grand Aioli.
Aioli sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce in a fondue. Other vegetables can be served with it, such as cauliflower, courgettes and tomatoes, and the main dish is also often served with molluscs and snails too.