Hollandaise can be a tricky little devil to make, but here's how to master it once and for all

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Eggs Benedict

Hollandaise: making poached eggs naughty

Dollop on the sauce hollandaise, monsieur! It's the only thing to make boiled fish sexy ... 

The only way is ...

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How to make hollandaise

Whisk me. And then just eat me. Until you get your satisfaction

You will need:

2 medium egg yolks

1 tbsp cold water

½ tsp lemon juice

a pinch of salt

110g unsalted butter, fridge cold and cut into 1cm cubes

1. Put a large pan filled with water on the hob and bring to the boil.


2. Put the egg yolks, water, lemon juice and salt in a smaller pan and give them a quick whisk.


3. Place the small pan into the larger pan holding it firmly and whisk constantly. Once it begins to thicken, add half the butter (still whisking!) until it thickens and becomes creamy.


4. Add the remaining butter and once the sauce thickens again it's ready.


What you're doing wrong: 

  • Extreme temperatures: don’t let it get too cold or it will split, or too hot for that matter. Keep it warm. Think toasty.
  • Patience: letting it sit for ages when it's ready. It will also split.
  • Impatience: adding the butter too quickly without enough stirring will make your sauce thin and watery. Take your time and work that whisk, baby!


Help, it's splitting!

OK, down tools and don't panic. The situation can be salvaged. Put a fresh egg yolk into a clean pan and slowly add the sauce over the bain-marie, stirring constantly. Things should come together nicely.


Additional flourishes

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Green eggs and ham looking rather lovely

Burnt hollandaise: because burnt stuff can be a virtue. Top lemon sole (or any flat fish) with hollandaise and stick it under the grill for a minute until it starts to brown. Don't leave it too long or it will split ... same old story.


Green eggs and ham: no, we're not trying to make hollandaise healthy. That would be silly. But made with flat-leaf parsley, spinach and champagne vinegar it's a winner.


Saucy saffron: push the boat out and add a pinch of saffron to the egg yolks at the very start. Now imagine that over eggs and sliced chorizo ... cor blimey.


  • This method is adapted from Edouard de Pomiane's in his book Cooking in Ten Minutes, as featured in Observer Food Monthly

Hollandaise sauce: food of the gods or just a bit too buttery? Let us know in the comments box below