Allioli, alioli or aioli?

Sauces from the source: Aioli is one of several oil and garlic-based-emulsion sauces found around the Mediterranean rim, ...
Sauces from the source: Aioli is one of several oil and garlic-based-emulsion sauces found around the Mediterranean rim, including alioli and allioli. Photo: Marina Oliphant

I read recently somewhere that allioli was a sauce from Provence. I always thought it was Catalan. M. Brun

It's amazing how fiercely one can defend a national dish. Take our magnificent pavlova: For years those devious Kiwis have been trying to claim it as their own using all sorts of clandestine methods such as facts and original documents to desperately try to prove it was first made there in the 1920s. Allioli goes back even further. It's from a family of oil and garlic-based-emulsion sauces found around the Mediterranean rim. Pliny the Elder, based in Roman Tarragona in the first century AD, observed a sauce made only with garlic, oil and a little vinegar. Tarragona sits in the south of Catalonia. Allioli, pronounced ah-ee-ohlee, is a Catalan emulsion sauce made with pounded garlic, olive oil and a little salt. That's it. In his authoritative book Catalan Cuisine Colman Andrews quotes an old Catalan saying, "allioli made with egg is just fancy mayonnaise". In greater Spain it is called alioli (ah-lee-ohlee) and is often made with egg. Aioli is another garlic and oil emulsion sauce from Provence in France. This velvety garlic mayonnaise is emulsified with raw egg yolk and is famously napped over morsels of fish in the fish stew bourride.

How much liquid does a tablespoon hold? L. Kirk

Depends on where you are. If you're in the US, NZ, Britain, Canada, Japan, and South Korea, then a tablespoon holds three teaspoons or 15 millilitres. In Australia, a tablespoon holds 20 millilitres or four teaspoons. According to the National Measurement Institute, there is no regulation that controls the size of tablespoons in Australia and some measuring spoon sets on sale in supermarkets have tablespoons that can hold just 15 millilitres. It seems the difference arose around the time of metrification with the rest of the world agreeing to use a 15 millilitre standard measurement and Australia using the older and larger measurement. This difference is important to remember when using cookbooks published overseas.

Why is it better to use a metal spoon to fold beaten egg whites into a pudding mixture? J. Storey

Using a stainless steel spoon to fold whipped egg whites into a mixture is best for a variety of reasons. Wooden spoons may have some fat embedded between the wood fibres. Fat is the natural enemy of forming peaks with whipped egg whites. Stainless steel spoons can slide edge-first into the mixture without breaking the little air bubbles in the whites and then lift up the other ingredients through the whites using the bowl of the spoon. Aluminium spoons and bowls are not recommended as they can discolour the whites. The secret to folding egg whites into other ingredients is using a gentle motion.

I am flummoxed by recipes that call for ''500 grams onions, finely chopped''. Do they mean 500 grams before topping, tailing and peeling or 500 grams chopped, ready to go into the pot? J.Liddell

If a recipe reads ''500 grams of onions, finely chopped'', write 500 grams of onions on the shopping list. Buy them. Take them home, top, tail, peel and finely chop them. Cook as directed. However, if a recipe reads ''500 grams finely chopped onions'' this requires exactly 500 grams of chopped flesh. A small onion will yield just under 75 per cent flesh, the rest being skin. A large onion will yield just under 85 per cent flesh. To get 500 grams of chopped onion you'll need to start with about 650 grams of medium onions. After peeling, weigh them. You will probably have to cut the last onion into portions to get the 500 grams.

Letters

Further to the discussion on persimmons R. Smith wrote, "Rather than waiting for persimmons to ripen on a ledge, you can speed the ripening by putting them in the freezer. When they defrost they are soft, mimicking the natural ripening process where they are normally hit by the frost. You can allow them to defrost completely or they are delicious eaten semi-frozen."

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