“Now that I’ve spent years observing how grand people live I’ve learnt that the ultimate grand person’s food… is not caviar, truffles, virgin olive oil or fancy cheese. No, it is … Hellman’s mayonnaise”

Miriam Clegg, Made in Spain: recipes and stories from my country and beyond


Miriam Clegg, the wife of the Lib Dem leader was describing lunch at No 10 where the roast chicken was served, to her surprise, without ceremony, on a wooden board with a box of Maldon salt and a jar of Hellmans.

Janice Turner, a journalist writing in The Times comments on her surprise, explaining, “I don’t think she understands the affected nonchalance of upper-middle-class dining. Try hards are thought a bit sad”.

Personally I ‘try-not-hard’ because I am shamelessly lazy. However, there is one very good reason for decanting the Hellmans and that is that if you transfer to a bowl you have the opportunity to add a bit of this, and a bit of that, and thus further improve the taste.

One of the most successful posts I put up in my first year of blogging was a cheats’ instant mash recipe. And another one that went down well was my cheats’ aïoli.

This recipe is along the same lines, developing a good concept even further. The bit of this and the bit of that in this case is gin, garlic and tarragon.

I learnt the trick of adding gin to mayonnaise from Elizabeth Luard (not personally, sadly, which would have been lovely – just from reading her delightful books), and the idea of adding tarragon to vinaigrette emanates from Elizabeth David (more reading). Combine the two Elizabethan ideas with the superlative combination of mayonnaise and garlic and you may be transported to paradise…. or at least you may not notice the fact that the mayonnaise is bought.

This goes particularly well with hot new potatoes… or even, sin of sin, with fried potatoes.


Recipe for shameless cheats’ mayonnaise with tarragon and gin


Serves about six on potatoes


  • 6 tbsp bought mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp gin
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • One sprig of tarragon (about ten leaves) – take off the leaves and chop


Simply mix the lot together.


cheats' mayonnaise

It goes sinfully well on fried potatoes