Aioli or Allioli; Festa Major


One of the things I miss about Andorra is the Festa Mejor Major. We have nothing like that here in bucolic France.

Every hamlet, village, town and city in Spain and Andorra has their own Fest Major in the summer.  Where we lived, Andorra/Catalonia, the celebration normally went on for 4 days.  There were rides and games for the kids; food, parties and dances for the adults.

Our little village was no exception.

There was a dance in the village square every night starting at around 1:00 in the morning…

Yes, I said starting…. (The only thing we don’t miss is the reverberation of the bands echoing up the mountain until about 7:00 am, when the dance was over.)  It wasn’t just for the young.  The dances were filled with all ages, from toddlers with their parents to the grandparents.

The big event, though, was the Parade of Giants.  Every village has it’s own Giant or pair of Giants (Ours was La Dame Blanche – the White Lady).  The handlers and their Giants go from village to town for the parades, and, just maybe, a wee bit of partying.  It takes around 20 people to handle a Giant (though only one carries it a time) and they all walk in the parade, tossing out firecrackers and candy; shouting, drinking, partying and generally having a good time.

That’s what made the Festa so special: Everyone seriously worked at having a good time… And succeeded!

The other thing that made our little Festa memorable was ‘The Chipper’.

Of all the fantastic food I have eaten all over Europe, I still think about that damn white van selling chips/pommes frites/French fries.

They were good.  Seriously good.  The best chips I have eaten, ever; before or since.

You could get them 4 ways: Plain; American (with ketchup); French (with mayonnaise); or Spanish (with allioli).

Real allioli.  The kind that takes your breath away; keeps whoever is in the room with you awake all night; puts hair on your chest and knocks your socks off.

Real allioli,  not the namby-pamby stuff you buy in jars.  Real allioli is not garlic mayonnaise.  It does not have lemon, vinegar or egg yolks.  It has garlic, olive oil and a bit of sea salt; nothing more.

Real allioli is hot enough to bring tears to your eyes….tears of joy, maybe, but true tears nonetheless.

Real allioli is HOT, HOT, HOT; a little goes a long way.  Real allioli is not for the faint of heart

Allioli is Spanish, in particular Catalan.  The French aioli normally adds an egg yoke to the mix.

As to garlic ‘mayonnaise’, well, let’s not even go there.  (Do you refer to ketchup as ‘salsa’?)

Lest you still think of this as mayonnaise, and are not properly understanding my words, let me assure you that one small teaspoon of this goes a long, long way to add an incredible flavor punch.   Oh, and make sure the people you are living with/dating/whatever eat some too!

I originally posted this last summer, but thought it deserved a second look.  At the vide grenier (boot sale, garage sale) last week I had  some mediocre chips with bland garlic mayonnaise…. I got homesick for Catalonia, the Festa Mejor and proper allioli!

Grilled Potatoes with AllioliPotatoes

3 – 4 medium potatoes
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Slice potatoes in half the long way, then in half again.  Then slice in half or thirds the short way.  Put remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Add potatoes and toss, coating thoroughly.  Put them into an old metal pie plate or cake tin or foil barbecue container (or whatever) that you will never use for any purpose but the barbecue again (you should have one of these).  Cook on barbecue (grill) for 20 – 30 minutes or until done… you will need to stir them with a long-handled wooden spoon occasionally as they tend to develop ‘hot spots’ and can get a little crispy.  When done remove potatoes and place on paper towel briefly to remove the excess oil.

The potatoes are great on their own or toss with allioli.

Aioli_2 Allioli

4 large cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp sea, kosher or other coarse salt
2 – 3 tbs olive oil

You have to do this with a mortar and pestle.  The garlic has to be mashed.  A blender or food processor will not work. 

Have I made this crystal clear?  If you do not use a mortar and pestle you will get a bland garlic mayonnaise.  The pounding pulverizes the cells, releasing allicin which gives it the sharp, hot flavor.

Smack the garlic once with side of a knife to start breaking it down then put it in the mortar along with the salt.  The texture of the salt helps break down the garlic.  Pound with the pestle until you get a paste.  Yes, this will take awhile.   (It took  10 – 15 minutes for me to make this.)  When you have a thick paste add the olive oil a few drops at a time and work into the garlic.  Once the drops are incorporated, add a few more.  Continue adding oil until it becomes difficult to incorporate then stop.  If you add too much theAiolipotatoes sauce will break.

Taste it.  In my mortar (shown in photo) I had about 2 1/2 tbs of allioli.  I added 1 tbs of light mayo to half of it and used it as a condiment for a grilled pork tenderloin.  The other half I tossed with the potatoes.

I don’t think the allioli will keep.  I made it about an hour before using and it was starting to break.  If you do have a bit leftover mix it with some mayo.  It will be the best garlic mayonnaise you ever had 😉

I brushed my teeth and tongue twice before bed.  The dogs left the room.  It was good!

Now get out your mortar and pestle, you know it’s buried in there somewhere!

I was once told that more people die from bad mayonnaise in Spain in summer than from car accidents.  Another good reason to stick with the Allioli!

Now, I wait to see what Nuría as to say to all this… ;-))

20 thoughts on “Aioli or Allioli; Festa Major”

  1. Wow, I totally learned something new about aioli. So you mean to tell me the stuff I have in my fridge that I made with eggs and vinegar and garlic and lemon juice is not the real deal???? I am so disillusioned! I am making your version next time. I need the tears! 🙂

  2. Grilled/roasted potatoes are one of my favorite ways to enjoy them, but I’ve never made an allioli before…from the sound of it though, it ought to be amazing. I have to try that this weekend so I can have a day or two to lose the garlic breath, but man that looks so good!

  3. JennDZ, yours would be like the French aioli… nice, but without the kick!
    Mike, if you love garlic….but share with everyone else in the house…

  4. That last picture has me sold. Looks like heaven on potatoes! The Spanish sure do know how to party. I remember a festival in some little white hill town that started at 11pm and I know I was wiped out far before any of the older people dancing and singing there! But it’s one of my fondest memories of my trip there!

  5. I simply love a good aioli. When I worked for a french bakery, they served a turkey sandwich on walnut wheat bread with the most killer aioli. I used to scoop a dish of that pungent stuff, put a baguette on the oven floor to warm and then take it to my desk for lunch. I don’t miss the job, but man alive, do I miss ‘all the free bread you can eat’ perk.
    That breathy deal tho……;-)

  6. I would love that allioli! Would the festa mejor be anything like the Fete votive in provence?

  7. You didn’t loose your purpose at all darling!!! That last phrase saying that the dogs left the room cracked me up!!!!
    What do I have to say? First: take some days off and come over to Barcelona… you will be my superspecial guest, I’ll take you around and we can make some allioli together or even a Paella! Second: I always add an egg yolk… the texture is better (for me), but you are completely right allioli only has all (garlic) and oli (oil) and a bit of salt. And third, just a small thing… it’s Festa Major. To see the FESTA MAJOR in capital letters you should go to La Patum de Berga… the best of all!!!
    Thanks for the mention sweetie and sorry for being so late!

  8. Michelle, so many of the ‘good’ parties don’t even start until well after midnight.
    Lydia, my pores ooze a lot in summer…. Best to keep a distance ;-))
    Kate, free bread in a French bakery? Oh my……
    Tigerfish, it’s small, but powerful.
    Popp Fields, I don’t know… I do know that there aren’t many festivals of any kind up here in the Vendee!
    Nuria, Damn!!!! I didn’t think it looked right, but I had already packed my Catalan dictionary… I found that spelling on the internet…. Next time I go with my instinct. Paella…. You may have guests…. Yum!!! (I saw your post….)

  9. The festa sounds amazing and you are so lucky to have experienced it. The allioli looks fab too, for the un faint of heart and un K9

  10. my mortar and pestle is on my counter all the time, I use it often and this looks great I need a way to use up that gallon of mayo that i mentioned back 5 months ago.

  11. I do love your stories Katie, I am transformed to Spain and I can taste those chips. All without the smell…but I will make the alloli one day…probably good with Sangria don’t you think?

  12. african vanielje, all of the festas in that part of the world are great! I miss the fun!
    Shayne…a gallon!!!! That’s a lot of egg salad!
    Gilli, perfect with Sangria. Lots of Sangria!

  13. Aha. Better late than never. Here I thought (until now) that the only real need for aioli was for Provençal-style Fish Soup. Clearly, I was mistaken. We neeeeeeeed to try this.

    • Excuse me for replying to myself. We tried this last night.

      It. Was. Fabulous.

      The photos are still in the camera, but I’ll try to remember to post about it on my blog. I’ll be sure to link to this page. (Wow, that really was delicious! Hahahahaha, we brushed our teeth twice last night too but I bet the whole neighbourhood can smell the garlic still oozing out of us.)

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