You're probably already halfway there: who hasn't mixed some pesto into mayo for a tomato sandwich? (you haven't? Why not??) Or put some chopped chives into mayo for devilled eggs. Add a little garlic and call it aioli...
Here are three of my favorite spiced up mayos:
Lime and chili. This is like samurai sauce but rocked with some lime zest and juice. I love it on anything, but it makes a ham sandwich stand up and sing. It's wonderful as a dip for chips or fries or crisps. Also breadsticks and veggies. This one's my star.
Lime and Chili mayonnaise
½ - ¾ cup mayonnaise
zest of ¼ lime
½ teaspoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon hot chili paste
Mix all the ingredients well and taste. Adjust to your liking, keeping in mind that the flavors will be stronger the next day. I personally add more lime and more chili.
Orange and curry. This one is wonderful on a chicken or turkey sandwich. For fancy pants finger sandwiches, blitz some poached chicken with a little spring onion and some crème fraiche to make a paste and spread that on bread with orange/curry mayo. Oh, yes.
Orange and Curry mayonnaise
½ - ¾ cup mayonnaise
zest of ¼ orange
1 teaspoon curry powder
Mix all the ingredients well and taste. Adjust to your liking keeping in mind that the flavors will be stronger the next day.
Saffron and chili. This is Dan's favorite. I've found a company that grows saffron in Belgium (I know!) and theirs is the strongest flavored saffron I've found. I use plenty in this recipe, because we love the earthy, clean flavor and the amazing color of it. The chili paste makes it even more vibrant—in both color and flavor. This one is perfect with fish or as a veggie dip or on crackers or as a last minute addition to soup (on pea soup? Gorgeous!) or as a pretty garnish wherever you need a spot of color.
Saffron and Chili mayonnaise
½ - ¾ cup mayonnaise
a big pinch saffron threads
1-2 envelopes powdered saffron
¼ teaspoon harissa
Soak the saffron threads in the tiniest bit of hot water for about 15 minutes. Add them to the mayonnaise along with the powdered saffron and the harissa. Taste and adjust to your liking keeping in mind that the flavors will be stronger the next day. I personally add more harissa.
- The first thing to know is that you're in charge. You can make these as strong or as subtle as you like. I personally like things spicy hot. If my earlobes aren't sweating then I think it needs a little more zip. However, I've toned that down in these recipes to what I think of as average. You'll adjust the chili for your own taste, of course.
- The flavors in these develop over a day or so, so it's best to make these the day before you want to use them and leave them covered in the fridge overnight. This is especially true for citrus zest and chili paste.
- I start with about ½ - ¾ cup good mayo. You can make your own, but I think that the subtly wonderful flavors added by making it by hand are lost with these additions. I use a good bought mayo for these.
- For the citrus zests, I grate them with a microplane to get fine zest. The point of the zest here is to allow the oils to infuse into the mayo, so you want as much surface area as possible.
- For the chili paste, I use different kinds of chilis: fresh ones chopped and mashed in a mortar and pestle, asian hot chili sauce (ear-sweating hot), harissa (a moroccan chili paste mixture). I don't recommend Tabasco alone, as it has too much vinegar for my taste. However, as a punch-up it's great.
- Saffron is the most expensive spice there is, so you don't want to waste it. But there's no point in being afraid of it either. If you put too little in the mayo, you won't taste it. You almost can't put too much, in my opinion. I use a combination of saffron threads and powdered saffron that I find in Italy. The threads I soak in a little hot water for a while before adding them to the mayo, but the powdered stuff I dump right in. You need to be careful of powdered saffron, because it's so easy to cut with other stuff. It's worth it to find a brand that you can know and trust.
- All of these recipes can be made with butter as well.