Have you noticed the lack of reasonably priced, good quality dips and spreads in the market? They’re either hideously overpriced, or they taste artificial and clammy. Even the very expensive ones just don’t cut it for freshness and innovation – the base flavors are barely distinguishable from one another.
Therefore, we usually make them at home. These are our top 5. They can be used as snack dips or as sandwich spreads; whatever works for you.
#1) Roasted Aubergine
This one’s Mediterranean origins are obvious, aren’t they? I particularly like to spread this on a couple of slices of toasted bread, make myself a cup of hot, black tea as a snack to go with a nice book.
Method: Mix 1 cup roasted, pureed aubergine just like in Baingan ka Bharta, 2 tbsp Tahini (you get this in bottles), 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 tsp tomato puree,1 red chili, 1 tbsp roasted garlic paste and 1 tbsp Tabasco.
If you’re not sure about Baingan ka Bharta, just pop a large, round aubergine into the oven at 180 and keep it there till the skin is black all over and it looks as if it’s melting. Remember to place a piece of foil under it. When done, remove everything except the flesh and mash or whizz. If you’re not comfortable with the oven, you can do the same thing on the small burner of your gas stove. The charring gives the flesh a lovely smoky flavour.
#2) Olive Oil and Jalapeno
This one is great with crusty bread and cheese. Necessity is rightly called the mother of invention as I found this mixture when I had little else in the fridge late on a Sunday night. The extra virgin olive oil gives it a smooth texture, the jalapenos bring a little chili and a tanginess and the olives add their own unique flavor. When combined with some grated parmesan or a small chunk of blue cheese on a piece of fresh bread, it’ll make you close your eyes and go ‘mmmm’.
Method: Finely chop 1 cup pickled jalapenos, 1 cup black olives, green olives and 1 cup mint leaves. Mix with pounded 1 tsp sea salt & 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp jalapeno pickling liquid (brine) and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil. Reduce liquid proportions for a spread and increase for a dip. If using as a spread, try grating some parmesan on top of the bread and grilling it.
Sea salt adds a very special flavour to dishes, especially simple ones with only a few flavours. It comes in large, rough granules, which I prefer pounding with a mortar and pestle with some black or white pepper.
#3) Hung Curd
This is probably one of the simplest and nicest dips. It’s quite healthy too. Most of us like creamy textures, which is mostly achieved through substances that are very high in fat content. Hung curd is a lovely alternative as it gives a great texture and very fresh, invigorating flavour too.
Method: Whisk together 1 cup of hung curd, 1 tbsp roasted garlic paste, freshly cracked white pepper and salt to taste. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve as a dip with a drizzle of clarified butter.
To make hung curd, simply pour curd/yogurt into a muslin cloth and hang for a few hours over a sink or similar receptacle. You can save the whey if you like, to knead into dough for really soft rotis. After a while, devoid of any liquid, you’ll be left with a thick, creamy substance – hung curd.
#4) Roasted Garlic
This is more of a sauce than a dip and is brilliant with fish and chicken; poached, steamed, lightly fried or grilled. Add a twist of lemon and a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley and you have the makings of a really fine meal.
Method: Mix ½ cup melted butter with 1 whole pod of mashed roasted garlic, ½ tsp lemon zest and ½ tsp freshly cracked white pepper. To roast garlic, remove as much of its flaky skin as you can, cut a slice off the bottom to expose the garlic within, brush well with olive oil, wrap in aluminium foil and place in an oven at 200 for about 30 minutes. When cool enough to touch, remove the cloves of garlic and use as required. In this case, mash them.
#5) Tuna Mayo Dip
I find the normal Tuna Mayonnaise dip a little too bland for my taste and usually spice it up as below. The onions add a vague crunch and the chilies a bit of spice. This one isn’t really as healthy as the others, but still quite lean for most purposes.
Method: In a little oil, sauté ½ cup finely chopped onions. When beginning to get transparent, add 1 tsp finely chopped deseeded green chilies and 1 cup of mashed, canned tuna (preferably canned in oil, not brine). Quickly toss and take off the heat. Mix with 1 cup mayonnaise (preferably made at home) with 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper and a sprig of parsley.
I love tuna and can’t get enough of it. While fresh is good, the canned variety has a flavor that’s really addictive for some. I don’t like the tuna canned in brine and much prefer tuna in oil. For this recipe, you can also use tuna flakes if you like.
Dips can make for a great accompaniment to a platter of salad sticks, breads, etc and can notch up the meal an extra mile. The variations that are possible with minimal ingredients and a new taste every time makes dips a welcome delight. What are your favorite dips? Share your favorites with us and leave a comment below.
Sid wrote about his 5 top dips in July 2010 for ToI Blogs, and we thought it might be fun to publish it on CaL too. – Editorial