By Leigh O’Connor.
When you think of dips, what usually comes to mind is the classic party dish in a bowl, surrounded by crackers, potato chips or for the more vegetable inclined, chopped up sticks of carrots, cucumber and celery.
Dips are essentially sauces on steroids, while the dipper whether it’s a water cracker or a stick of capsicum, is really just a way of transporting the dip into your mouth without getting your fingers dirty.
And don’t even get me started on dip etiquette… people, there are rules!
No double-dipping – no part of the dipper that has made contact with your mouth, should ever go back into the dip.
No hogging – if you have a large appetite, you might linger a little too long over the bowl and cause a dip traffic jam. If the dip is almost gone, and if it seems like you will be the last dipper, the polite thing to do is to ask if anyone else would like some; usually, people will reward someone who asks this question with the last dip!
No contamination, or cross-contamination – for health reasons, no dips in sauce bowls should contaminate dips in other bowls. Lots of dips contain nuts and some people are so allergic to nuts, they need medical attention if they are in the same room as a nut. If the host has deemed the dip ‘safe’ for allergy sufferers, then don’t be the careless dipper that cross contaminates.
Of special note, is the broken chip-crisp-cracker rule:
Try as we might and with the best of intentions, sometimes we miscalculate the delicate stress we put our crackers under, and they break off in the dip. Immediate action is necessary to remove the fragments from the dip, using another clean dipper.
In his latest book The Dips and Spreads Guide, Xavier Waterkeyn dishes up tasty and delicious recipes for dippers and spreaders to try, come vacation time or Summer party season. We’ve picked four to share, along with tips and notes that offer simple variations to the basic dip mixture, with a fifth recipe from our AGFG collection.
Is it a dip, or is it a spread? Ultimately, the answer depends on how you are using it – are you dunking in it, or slathering it on bread? The biggest deciding factor is the texture you end up with, this recipe for garlic, thyme and conserve brie or camembert dip spread is a perfect example of this theory.
Brie and Camembert are the most famous and easily available white, soft rind French cheeses; they are similar, but not identical. Brie has cream added during its making and the result is a smoother, creamier cheese that is milder than camembert, which has a much sharper flavour.
For this dip/spread, the cheese is stuffed with garlic and baked with thyme and your choice of conserve – such as chilli or fig jam, cranberry sauce, sweet or bitter orange marmalade – until warm and gooey. Even when baked, this dish is still a little too firm to dip a cracker or chip in directly, it works better as a warm spread that you dig into with a butter knife and spread on toasted bread.
There are many versions of classic Greek cucumber dip tzatziki, which are relatively easy to get right provided you remember to get all the excess moisture out of the cucumber. This recipe uses labneh, or Greek-style yoghurt, garlic and lemon, alongside fresh dill for a refreshingly light dip, that goes well with any dipper imaginable.
For a Cypriot-Greek twist, add a dash of Greek oregano rigani; while the Iranian version adds dried mint for flavouring. Ingredients like coconut and banana can turn a normal cucumber raita into a tropical sensation, ideal for your next Summer social gathering.
No journey into the wonderful world of dips and spreads would be complete without dealing with pate, since it doesn’t really fit anywhere else. Some recipes can be extraordinarily elaborate, requiring slow cooking in a water bath, or baking in a special ceramic dish, but this chicken pate is simple and basic – that doesn’t mean it can’t be tweaked as much or little as you would like.
You are under no obligation to use as much butter or cream as this recipe calls for if you do you’ll get a very smooth, soft pate; while if you up the liver and lower the butter and cream, you’ll end up with a thicker, more spreadable pate.
Duck and goose livers can also be used, remembering they are larger than chicken livers and may need to be cut up a little before sautéing, to ensure even cooking.
A word about lentils… this often-neglected legume isn’t eaten nearly as often as it should be in the Western diet. They are extremely versatile and depending on the lentil used, such as the humble brown and green lentils to black beluga, dips created using them will have different flavours and textures.
For something a little out of left field which shows off lentils to their best advantage, try this African spiced lentil dip with coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg bringing a taste of the exotic to your next party. Best served warm, topped with chopped coriander or flat-leaf parsley, carrot or celery sticks are an ideal dipping partner.
Once you have your dip base sorted, the sea is the limit! Try this crab dip and bagel chips and wow your guests with the fresh salty flavour of the ocean, combined with sour cream, Greek yoghurt, mayonnaise, dill and lemon.
Making the bagel crisps is simple and adds a great crunch to the creamy crab mixture; just slice the bagels thinly, brush them with butter and bake them in the oven until golden brown. Make sure to flip them halfway through so that both sides are nicely toasted.
For the final word on the world of delectable dips, Xavier Waterkeyn has three golden rules:
Don’t sweat the small stuff: Dip making is more of an art than a science; a dip recipe should be considered more like a set of broad brushstrokes rather than a strict, paint-by-numbers plan.
Taste as you go: Add extra ingredients in small batches so that no single ingredient overwhelms any others.
Dips are an art, presentation is everything: Feel free to experiment with presentation by adding finishing sprinkles of anything from mild chilli, paprika and black pepper to mixed herbs.
Happy dipping people!