Dips Away

In my last post I made a Tzatziki in which I substituted the traditional Greek yoghurt with Crème Fraiche, I also commented on how I much prefer to prepare my own dips as opposed to purchasing ready-made shop ones.

The main reason for this preference is that homemade dips are a great way of using up leftover ingredients; in particular yoghurt, cream, citrus fruits & fresh herbs. Dips don’t have to follow a set recipe every-time and you can experiment with different concoctions until the results suit your palate.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show how your own fair hands can quickly and easily prepare some of the most common dips.

SOUR CREAM

Possibly the easiest of all dips to make; simply take some cream (or crème fraiche if you’re trying to be a bit healthier) and sour it by stirring in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

SALSA

The base of Salsa is obviously tomato and you can create your own by using any type of tomato you like; tinned, cherry or plum tomatoes all work great and will each individually create salsas that differ in both sweetness and texture. To form the base of any salsa, mix together chopped tomatoes, garlic and onion. From here you can add a whole host of ingredients to suit your taste, the most common additions are chilli for a bit of a kick, a squeeze of lime which adds a bit of zest or herbs such as coriander or parsley, depending on your taste. I have even heard of salsas being made with all kinds of crazy ingredients including chocolate and almonds, although I’m yet to try either of these creations.

GUACAMOLE

What could be more simple than mashed avocado mixed up with a bit of lemon juice? This is a great accompaniment to Mexican dishes such as chilli or enchiladas and is the perfect use for avocados that are verging on over-ripe.

TZATZIKI

See my previous post but essentially, yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and lemon

PESTO

A fantastic way of using up fresh basil, simply toast some pine nuts and blend with basil, oil & Parmesan. This is more than just a dip and can be used as a delicious homemade sauce for many recipes. As an example, have a look at my recipe for Grilled Halloumi & Cherry Tomatoes with Mint Pesto.

HUMMUS

Now I must confess that this isn’t one I’ve tried myself but I believe it’s as simple as blending some tinned or dried cooked chickpeas, lemon, garlic and a sprinkle of paprika.

I purposely haven’t published detailed recipes for these dips, purely because you really can start producing your own  creations on a trial and error basis, why not have a look at ingredients you have left to use up and start inventing? I’ve always managed to come out with something tasty (or at least edible) when I’ve attempted a dip. I hope that the above ideas inspire you to create your own dips, they’ll be sure to impress friends at a dinner party or summer BBQ, and of course you’ll be reducing food waste by using up those leftover items you might have lying around.

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Grilled Halloumi and Cherry Tomatoes with Mint Pesto

Despite the packaging on the Basil clearly reading “keep me away from the cold”, the packet of Basil had ended up squished in the bottom of the fridge past it’s prime, alongside a few sprigs of floppy mint and some wrinkly cherry tomatoes.

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Normally when I have left over Basil, I make myself some home-made pesto and as I only had a few sprigs of mint left, I decided to throw them in. I’ve never made any other pesto other than bog standard pesto but I’ve heard adding mushrooms, mint and a whole other host of ingredients can create great variations on the original.

I couldn’t remember the correct measurements so I just threw all the herbs into a blender with two tbsps of toasted pine-nuts, a crushed garlic clove and a good glug of olive oil. I always find pesto takes a while to blend, during the blending I gave the mix an occasional stir and gradually added more olive oil until I was happy with the consistency.

After I tipped the mix out of the blender for a taste test, I discovered my hap hazard approach to pesto making had led to me missing out a vital ingredient…parmesan.

Not wanting to re-blend, I just added grated parmesan to the finished product (probably not how the Italians do it but hey-ho it tasted pretty good).image-3image-4

 The best thing about making any paste from fresh herbs, is that it pro-longs the life of the herbs and can be used for a huge variety of dishes such as pasta sauces, meat marinades or salad dressings.

I decided to go for the old BBQ classic of grilled halloumi and cherry tomatoes, a proper recipe for which can be found at bonappetit.com.

As I didn’t have a BBQ, or any skewers, I continued with my hap hazard approach to cooking by throwing halloumi and cherry tomatoes into an oven-proof dish, and whacked them underneath the grill for 5 minutes before mixing with the pesto.

And hey presto,  a few wrinkly past their best ingredients created a great dish that can be eaten as an appetizer or lightish supper/salad.

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