If you adore garlic, Catalan allioli – made with garlic and oil with a smidgen of salt and lemon will appeal. My easy recipe for mild allioli uses roasted garlic for a smooth and delicious result.
I’ve often said that culinary equivalent of walking a mile in someone’s shoes is to dine at their table and break bread with them, or in this case cook a dish and take the recipe home with you to replicate in your own kitchen. A postcard for the foodie perhaps? I love learning new dishes and bringing them home putting my twist on them in my kitchen.
Last October I was in Catalonia in the small village of Ventalló on the day of their referendum, we were meant to be having an olive oil tasting, but given the momentous and historic day this was cancelled and we attended the local alllioli making competition instead.
Catalan allioli is fearsome stuff made with just four ingredients, copious quantities of raw garlic, good quality local olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice. It is FIERCE! The merest dab is so garlicky it burns and and would be enough to fell a whole coven of vampires, as well as everyone within a 10m radius on public transport the morning after.
The Allioli competition is serious stuff and hotly contested every year with competitors bringing their own equipment and practicing throughout the year. It was market day in Ventalló and people came by to watch after doing their shopping and casting their vote.
The organisers took pity on the British entrants, as obviously none of us were going to be the winners, and guided us through what to do; demonstrated by Emily. Start by peeling the garlic, roughly chopping before putting it into the mortar and then pounding it with salt until you have a paste. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Slowly slowly slowly drizzle in top quality olive oil, constantly stirring in one direction with the pestle. You cannot stop for a second or the mixture will spilt. Here some of the more seasoned and serious competitors had rolled their sleeves up and were stirring with their hands. Keep going for about 30 minutes until you have a thick shiny yellow sauce the consistency of mayonnaise that is thick enough to hold the pestle upright.
It is hard work, and, considering just how powerful the finished article is, not one I’ll be making at home any time soon. The allioli is also very prone to splitting. I’ve toned down the recipe to make it a little friendlier to everyone around, as well as added some egg yolk to help emulsify and make the more stable.
Easy Allioli, Catalan Garlic Sauce Recipe
- 2 bulbs garlic
- Juice 1/3 lemon
- 1 pinch Sea salt
- 45 ml good quality olive oil
- Half an egg yolk
- Roast the whole bulbs of garlic at 200C/Gas Mark for 30 minutes, until they feel soft to the touch. Allow to cool
- Peel the bulb and cloves: scrape the soft roasted garlic into the bowl of a small food processor, add pinch of salt and pulse for a few seconds scraping the sides down as you go.
- Add the egg and lemon juice, and blend together for a few seconds.
- Continue blending, and slowly drizzle in the oil, stopping from time to time to scrape the sides down.
- Once thick with a mayonnaise like consistency check the flavour and add a little more salt if needed.
Market Day in Ventalló, Catalonia
I do love a browse in a food market when I am travelling, there is so much to see, taste, smell and be inspired by. In Ventalló the market stands were scatted throughout the narrow shaded streets, as well as being in the main square.
Voting in the referendum was underway in the town’s school, outside the old part of town. The mood was calm and good natured. Local farmers had blocked off the street with tractors to prevent vehicles reaching the polling station and there was a discrete but friendly local Catalonian police presence. The atmosphere was good, but serious and people mingled in the street chatting as they waited to vote. A very different story to the towns and the news reports from Barcelona.
There were stalls loaded with charcuterie and cured meats. High Jenga-esque stacks in every flavour.
Intensely flavoured local cheeses, rustic local bread and fresh dough sold by weight.
Sacks of flavoured artisan pasta, mushrooms and coca d’espinacs. So much to choose from, in the end a few bags of pasta, as well as some cheese made it into my case for the journey home.
We travelled to Catalonia with Jet2.com flying to Girona. Jet2 fly from a variety of UK airports including London Stansted, Leeds, Manchester, East Midlands, Edinburgh and Glasgow with flights starting at around just £40. Flights are several times a week and timetabled sensibly making a long weekend or short weekday break very easy.
For a budget airline I was very pleasantly surprised, genuinely helpful, happy staff who were delightfully perky first thing in the morning with a customer service first ethos. Planes were clean and modern with massive overhead lockers for fitting carry on bags in.
Something that’s far less traditional, but easy and tasty is my cheese dip. Perfect for crudities or tortilla chips.
We were the guest of Jet2 on a trip to Girona and the Costa Brava. All opinions our own.
I have never tried allioli before but I definitely hope – I love garlic and it sounds like a delicious sauce. Your trip sounds incredible.
I recommend trying this toned down version, unless you are a serious garlic fan.
The market looks like something out of a movie, amazing. My sister loves garlic so this is something I will have to tell her about.
The market was simply wonderful, I could have spend much more time just browsing and taking it all in.
Starlight and Stories
Oh wow, we had this in Spain in the summer. I neeed this recipe in my life for sure!
Always nice to be able to remake something you have enjoyed on holiday.
I am going to have to share this recipe with my parents as my Dad is the king of asking for difference sauces, so I think he would really love to give this a go.
I’m sure your Dad would enjoy this simple sauce, lots of flavour but not too powerful.
What a fun trip Helen! Sounds like a lot of hard work making the garlic mayo through – I wouldn’t have the stamina!!! Love all your pics from the food market… totally warmed up my cold January morning in Whitley Bay.
Making it in a mortar was certainly tough going, which is why my method in a processor is so much friendlier.
I am a huge garlic fan so any sauces with a lot of garlic in them are great for me x
I love garlic too, just perhaps not so much as the traditional recipe.
I am actually going to try this out, as I was looking for a recipe for Allioli sauce the other day. Looks fresh and fab x
This toned down version is much less overpowering.
I absolutely love Allioli, in fact it is my sauce of choice for dipping, spreading, and using on bread. I have never used lemon in it before though so I am looking forward to giving this recipe a try soon!
I find the hint of lemon is a lovely flavour to add.
I remember the Catalonian girls making this at britmums and it was absolutely delicious. I bet the competition was fun to take part in too
Was lovely to be part of it, but hard work with all that pounding.
Helen at Casa Costello
I’m definitely more of a fan of subtle garlic tastes not the fiery burning sensation of raw garlic. This competition sounds fascinating (and more than a little pungent!) Happy New Year to you, Helen.
I find raw garlic is just too much, less enjoyable.
Looks like a fab experience. I would definitely be taking some cheese home with me too!
So many gorgeous foods to chose from Amy.
I do love a market and this one looks fabulous. The Allioli is a great idea for added flavour and a real treat for garlic lovers like me.
Browsing the market was just fabulous Janice, such a wonderful atmosphere.
Oh I just LOVE garlic!! We literally cook with it all the time, I love the idea of this sauce!
This version of allioli is much friendlier, and very tasty.
Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes
Wow the stalls all look so wonderful! The traditional Allioli recipe looks hard work though, I’d love to give it a try!
All that pounding was hard work, but lovely to be a part of it.
I don’t think we eat allioli very much in England and I’d certainly never considered they would have a competition about it! I love the porridge competition in Scotland though – I want to go one day.
When you’re as serious about garlic as they are, a competition is all very normal.
I am literally drooling reading this recipe, I have never made allioli and only recently tried it so really have to make this soon! Your photographs of your trip are amazing, it’s like being there-)
This version is so easy to make Camilla, and much friendlier.
im currently doing my online monthly shop and looking for new ideas to make new healthier sauces and marinades and dips thank you for this , saves m pennies
Very easy to make, a few ingredients.
Amy | The Cook Report
This is one of my absolute favourite dips, I have it on everything!
So many tasty ways of enjoying.
This sounds yummy! I often travel with Jet2, they’re fab aren’t they? I absolutely adore the photos in this post, so gorgeous.
I’ve found travelling with Jet2 really enjoyable.
Shashi at SavorySpin
I love your “culinary equivalent of walking a mile in someone’s shoes”! While this aioli might have taken a while – it sounds so flavor jammed! And your pictures of Catalonia remind me of my trip to Trastevere in Italy – such lovely streets and markets!
I love browsing local markets and streets, all part of the experience.
Janette | Culinary Ginger
Yum! There are so many uses for this aioli, but of course the Brit in me wants to dip my chips in it :) What a fun experience the aioli contest is, looks like an amazing trip you had.
I think dipping your chips in this allioli is a perfectly great way to enjoy it.
Such gorgeous photos of the market in Ventalló! I hope to be able to visit someday. Your Allioli looks incredible with that texture.
The consistancy is perfect for dipping and spreading.
Oh, my gosh! This is my kind of garlic recipe! I can imagine it is probably something best used in small quantities, though!
I think there is a point of too much garlic, so enjoy in moderation.
I’ve never tried making this before. Think i will be giving it a go sometime as it does look good. The visit to the market looks very interesting
Easy to make and very tasty Hannah.
Excellent ailoli recipe, Helen! A trick to keep it from splitting when not needed immediately – don’t tell the Catalans – is to work in a handful of breadcrumbs or a spoonful of mashed potato as the Greeks do with skordalia.
Thank you for commenting, I love that trick – I’ll add it to the post.