There’s not much that I can do, but one thing that I can do, is dips. They call me the Queen of Hummus and my condiments are famous throughout the land.
So naturally, I made some dips for our Stakes Day car park at the races on Saturday. Dips work best in threes, I believe (for aesthetic reasons, mainly). I definitely had to make the hummus, as that is my signature. The other two were determined on the basis of the weather. It was set to be about 30°C (that’s 86°F for our internationals) so I had to go for the least perishable options. I decided on taramasalata (which I usually make from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s Moorish but we also made at Sunnybrae last week) and baba ghanoush (I found Brigitte Hafner’s version on the internet and I trust her). If it had been cooler, I think I would have made tzatziki and aioli.
If you make any or all of these for your friends, you will be popular too!
I won’t include the taramasalata recipe here as I haven’t developed my own version yet. My only advice is to get the fresh tarama (it’s the salted and preserved roe of grey mullet) from delis and avoid the canned version. Often, I find I have to ask specifically for it. Both the Maloufs and George Biron said to avoid the orange versions and go for the pink versions. Apparently it is less bitter. I also sometimes have trouble with the oil used in that it makes the dip taste peppery and wrong. Find an oil that works for you. (Variation: George Biron also made a sea urchin version which I thought was interesting. It, quite literally, tasted like a rockpool! But I don’t think the flavour is for everyone so I’d keep that version for close friends and family, not large crowds.)
The baba ghanoush was so much fun and so easy to make. As Hafner mentions, setting the eggplants directly on the gas burner does feel ‘a little messy and weird’ but it works! The smoky flavour of this dip was incredible! I got a bit nervous and took the eggplants off the burners too early and had to put them back again. My advice for this one is not to lose your nerve – I think the eggplants would benefit from overcooking rather than undercooking in this instance. Hafner also does not mention putting the ingredients in a food processor, but I found that to be useful. The tahini that I have is really solid and non-mixable and my eggplant probably wasn’t quite soft enough (but it seemed to work anyway). My other tip is to rip the eggplant’s little hat-like leaves just below the stalk off before placing it on the stove. The leaves burn and they set off my smoke detector. I just checked out Stephanie’s version too and she mentions pressing the blackened eggplant with the back of a spoon or your hand to remove as much moisture as possible. This would also have been a good idea and made the dip a little less sloppy.
The hummus recipe is adapted from Stephanie’s. It is best to just do it by taste as the strength and size of some of the ingredients can vary. Individual tastes can also vary and I find it’s best to skimp on the garlic if you will be speaking to people in close proximity!
- 2 cans of chickpeas (or equivalent in dried, soaked and cooked)
- 1 tbs of ground cumin (grind fresh in mortar and pestle)
- 5 + peppercorns (grind fresh in mortar and pestle)
- 2-4 cloves of garlic (crushed to paste in mortar and pestle with salt)
- 1-2 lemons
- 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
- A dash of olive oil and/or water
Drain and rinse chickpeas in a colander. In the food processor, put chickpeas and blend for a few minutes. Add lemon juice plus olive oil or water to combine if needed. Add the remaining ingredients to achieve desired taste. I love smoked paprika so I load up on that. Garnish with parsley, a sprinkle of smoked paprika and some olive oil.
Serve with whatever pleases you: seasonal vegetable sticks, rice crackers, turkish bread…