As part of my research for the 2015 Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food I prepared an eggless alioli or ajo, using a wooden pestle and earthenware mortar. It wasn’t as tricky as I expected though I took care to have all the ingredients – the garlic, salt and a viscous olive oil – at room temperature for an hour before I started. At first I added the oil with a dripper, then I used an olive-oil pourer, and luckily the emulsion held good to give a pungent and buttery paste, a reminder of the eighteenth-century French name beurre de Provence given to it by François Marin in 1739. My guests all found small dobfuls were more than enough on our platefuls of arroz negro, or black rice made with squid ink. Would I make it again? Yes, if garlic-lovers were coming to eat, but I prefer Altamiras’s lighter ajo made with yolk and mint.