Now, I will fly the British flag at the best of times, especially when it comes to food (hello sticky toffee pudding) but there’s something we don’t do very well at all in this country. I’m talking dips. Now you might think I’ve gone slightly doolally because surely there is a dip section in every supermarket? True. A very small section. A very small section consisting of about five different types of hummus, some taramasalata (I mean, please) and maybe a bit of cheese and chive. And then there are those packs that have four sections but all anyone eats is the thousand island dip leaving the others to fester in the fridge until they start to grow things. Yes, we do dips but in my opinion they are far from delightful.
I don’t think I’d have a problem with our dire dip selection if I hadn’t had a glimpse of the dip possibilities within our grasp. I lived in Australia for a few years and let’s just say their standard supermarket dip selection put ours to shame. Yes, they had hummus (who doesn’t?) but they also had French onion, gherkin, creamed corn, beetroot… the list goes on. I still have daydreams about gherkin dip to this day. So what can we do about our lack of decent dips? Short of lobbying supermarket buyers, the easiest course of action is to make them ourselves and this is a lot easier than it sounds. Of course homemade hummus is getting increasingly popular in our kitchens (I’ve never attempted it myself by am reliably informed that it knocks socks off the supermarket versions), but I’ve got a few more dip tips and tricks up my sleeve….
When attempting homemade dips, your best friend will be a tub of soft cheese. I’ve never been a fan of the stuff in sandwiches but add a few magical ingredients to it and it will be transformed. My current favourite is sweetcorn relish. I found some the other day and put one bottle and two tubs of soft cheese in a bowl and mixed until combined. This could also work if blended so it becomes a smooth dip but to be honest I didn’t try it because I was too hungry and desperate for dip but will give it a shot next time.
With French onion dip, I’ve found that using a dried soup mix with a soft cheese base works well, but be careful of your soup/cheese ratios as you don’t want to end up with anything too salty. I haven’t attempted a gherkin one yet, but I’m guessing that some finely chopped pickled gherkins would work a treat.
Soft cheese is my favourite base, mostly because of its thickness – the more you mix it up the creamier it becomes until it reaches perfect dip consistency. Sour cream, tinned cream, crème fraiche or cheese spread would also work, but I suspect the sour cream and crème fraiche will get runnier the more you mix them, unless you’re aiming for a whipped cream texture – if so then keep missing until it gets thicker again.
There’s nothing to stop you making your own tzatziki with Greek yoghurt, grated cucumber and garlic. I’ve done this plenty of times in the past but you need to be careful with the garlic – using crushed or finely grated cloves is the quickest method, but this also makes a very potent, garlicky mix. However, using confit garlic cloves makes a mellower dip, but it also means cooking them in advance. Mind you, they are a very useful ingredient to have to hand – use them as a garnish for many meals or they’re delicious spread on some crusty bread (very much like dip is).
There are other more complicated and time consuming dip recipes out there but these will keep you going for starters. Join me in the dip revolution and perhaps the UK supermarkets will catch up one day?