Today is the start of a long weekend here in the US, with Presidents Day – which marks the birthday of George Washington (the first president of the US) – being commemorated on Monday. The weather forecast for Los Angeles suggests that it’s going to be extremely pleasant for most of that, and although there’s a slight possibility of rain, we’re still looking forward to spending most of the weekend outside.
This means that we’re going to need food that’s both adaptable and transportable – either for munching in the garden, or taking with us if we go hiking in the nearby mountains. Whatever we decide to do, these beautiful and versatile dips – which are great for a snack, with lunch or as an appetizer – will be perfect.
They’re fantastic in sandwiches (think – for example – beetroot and walnut dip with goats cheese, grated carrot and spinach, or lemony hummus with tomato, basil and olives); with crudités (such as carrot, celery, red and green pepper); or just with pitta bread or crackers. The possibilities are endless…
It’s easy to cut corners with these recipes, so they can actually be quite quick to make – just use tinned chickpeas for the lemony hummus, and ready ground cumin in the beetroot and walnut dip, both of which will save you some time. But do make sure to taste them during the final stage of preparation, gradually adding more of the relevant ingredients to adjust each to your taste.
Recipe 1: Lemony Hummus
125g / 4 ½ oz dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
If you’re short of time you can use tinned chickpeas instead. Rinse them well, and add a little water to them for the initial puréeing.
1 bay leaf
Juice of two lemons
1 small garlic clove, crushed with a little salt
2-3 tbsp tahini
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly, then place in a large bowl with enough water to completely cover them. Leave to soak for 12 hours.
Drain the chickpeas and put them in a large saucepan with the bay leaf and enough cold water to cover generously. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and partially cover with a lid. Simmer gently for about 3 hours, until the chickpeas are really soft, skimming the surface and topping up with boiling water as necessary to keep the chickpeas covered. Add ½ tsp of salt near the end of cooking. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid, and discard the bay leaf.
Put 3-4 tablespoons of the hot cooking liquid into a food processor or blender with half the chickpeas, 4 tablespoons of the lemon and the garlic. Whiz for a few seconds. Add the remaining chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of tahini and 2 tablespoons of oil, then whiz again until you reach a consistency that you like. Remove from the blender and put into a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper. Add more oil, lemon juice or tahini – a little at a time – if you think that it needs it, beating well each time.
Recipe 2: Beetroot Dip
50g / 2 oz walnuts
1 tbsp cumin seeds
I substituted ground cumin here, adding a small pinch to start and adjusting to taste in the final stage (as indicated below).
25g / 1 oz stale bread, crusts removed
200g / 7 oz cooked beetroot, cut into cubes
(This previous post includes details of how to cook beetroot)
1 tbsp tahini
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in an oven preheated to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Leave to cool.
If you’re using cumin seeds: warm a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and dry-fry them, shaking the pan almost constantly, until they start to darken and release their aroma – this should take less than a minute so be careful not to burn them. Crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar.
Break the bread into small chunks, put into a food processor with the walnut and whizz until fine. Add the beetroot, tahini, most of the garlic, a good pinch of cumin, half the lemon juice, a small pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper, then blend to a thick paste.
Taste the mixture and adjust it by adding a little more cumin, garlic, lemon, salt and / or pepper, blending again until you’re happy with it. Loosen with a dash of olive oil if you think that it needs it. Refrigerate until required but bring back to room temperature to serve.