Monday, January 05, 2009

Quick Dips

Sat 3 Jan 2009

I know the entertaining season feels like it's over, but let's face it - it doesn't need to be Christmas or New Year to have a party. And whenever you have a party - it needs catering. I grew up in a household where party planning and preparation was a joy and I've inherited my mother's need to ensure there's enough food to feed a small army. Andy was doubtful - "don't do too much food", he warned, "we don't want people here all night".

By Saturday morning, everything was ready bar the last minute bits and pieces - and that included two dips. Dips are the easiest things in the world to make (especially if you have any type of food processor) and the home made variety ends up being cheaper and a lot healthier (in case you're on a New Year health kick).

These two dips are very different and come from very different books.

The first is Ainsley Harriott's butter bean hummous, from his Friends and Family Cookbook. This dip is really nothing like hummous - no chickpeas, no tahini and a hell of a lot less olive oil.

For about one cup of dip use a small tin of butter beans (make sure they're in water and give them a quick rinse before using them). Put this in your blending equipment of choice, add a small clove of garlic and some very finely chopped fresh rosemary (probably only a teaspoonful or so - all down to your taste really). Whizzy up. Add extra virgin olive oil to let the mix down to dip-like consistency (often a very personal preference) and adjust seasoning. I added salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and finish with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

For the next dip, I headed to Made in Morocco and produced a spiced carrot dip. This was definitely my favourite of the two, but that's because I love carrots, chillis and cumin! To make this dip you'll either need to buy some harissa, a North African chilli paste, or make your own.

To make enough harissa for this dip, take your mortar and add some chilli flakes, a clove of crushed garlic, some salt and a sprinkling of toasted cumin seeds. Batter this all together and bring it to a paste with a little extra virgin olive oil. The exact quantities you can vary to your taste: I used about a teaspoon of chilli flakes (end product - HOT!), one clove of garlic and about half a teaspoon of cumin seeds. The recipe in the book is the 'in bulk' version and begins with 1 cup of dried chillis!

While you're battering away at the harissa, put some peeled, chopped carrots on to boil. I used four small-medium sized ones. When the carrots are cooked through, tip them into your blender and whizzy up. Add the harissa and extra garlic and extra virgin olive oil as you need. If you're serving the dip to those with delicate palates, go gently with the harissa.

I absolutely loved this dip and will definitely be making it again. It has the sweetness of the carrot, the smokey, rich flavour of the toasted cumin, the fire of the chilli and the tang of the garlic. Fantastic!
Spiced carrot dip & butterbean 'hummous'

I made both these dips in under an hour (and that included washing out the blender and waiting for the carrots to cook). They were very cheap to produce and they're actually very healthy (not actually a priority of mine, but maybe for some people!) because neither requires a lot of olive oil to bring them to a good dipping consistency. Oh - and they're also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Happy new year!
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