It’s Wednesday and you have guests for dinner – probably because they don’t feel like cooking either and you weren’t thinking on your feet when it was suggested. Nobody wants to go to a restaurant, so what to do? Buy two roasted chickens, make a salad and here’s something quick to liven things up. If you don’t like your guests, use habaneros in your guacamole. For dessert, good vanilla Italian ice cream and pureed berries are the absolute quickest. I worked out that any one of these dips (except the hummus, unless you are prepared to use tins) will take no longer than ten minutes with a food processor.
The name Liptauer is German for Liptov, which is in the Tara mountains and was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire in Slovakia before 1918. In Trieste, Italy, it’s known as Spuma di formaggio all’ungherese . Originally made from bryndza cheese by the local sheep farmers it is popular in Hungarian and Austrian cuisine and not only Slovakian. This curd cheese, reminiscent of the German quark has a gentler taste with a sweetness from the sheep’s milk. The other ingredients marry well to create the very definite character of something really unique. Put the cheese in your food processor and add butter, Hungarian paprika, caraway seeds and anchovies. Once out of the processor, mix in the tiniest amount of white chopped onions and capers to taste
Traditionally this Greek dip is made from the Italian bottarga (the dried roe sac of the gray mullet) which gives it the pinkish colour. (Incidentally, the Egyptians made bottarga long before the Italians did and they actually introduced it to the Romans). Nowadays taramasalata is made from cod roe because the cod is much cheaper, albeit endangered and we currently face a world-wide shortage. The lengthy drying process has been substituted by smoking it to accommodate increasing demand. It doesn’t taste the same at all – so make sure which process was used when you buy it and look for the dried roe. Remember, bottarga lasts for absolutely ages. Make the taramasalata by adding fine white bread crumbs, minced onion, olive oil and lemon juice to the roe. Use your food processor and get on with it!
Known as hummus bi tahina in the Arab world and a myriad of other names around the world, hummus has become one of the healthiest foods we can’t live without. Chickpeas were first cultivated in the late Neolithic era (3500 BC) and remains found at Thessaly, thus proving that the Greeks were the first to feel the hummus pulse. Though ‘proven’ Greek in origin, it still forms an important part of many middle eastern meals. 🙂 A thick paste of chickpeas (garbanzos), tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil makes this dish the firm favourite it is all over the world. Chickpeas need a very long soaking and cooking, but that’s all you need to make it – no spices and no salt. I do add a tiny bit of salt to invite flavour, but that’s it. Finally, if you like the taste of tin you could use one if you are in a hurry but in that case slip in a good pinch of sweet Hungarian paprika to remove the tin taste and always remember that tahini easily ferments which means that hummus doesn’t keep too long.
Known as ttalattouri in Cyprus, this Greek dip is also found in all the Balkan countries and is made from sheep’s milk (or goat’s milk) yoghurt to which finely chopped cucumber is added and mixed with olive oil, freshly chopped herbs (mint or dill making up the bulk) and a splash of wine vinegar to taste. Cypriots emphasize the mint which seems a rather logical idea in their hot weather! Garlic and chopped onions can also be added – but do remember what yoghurt, garlic and onion do to your breath! It reminds one of the Indian raita and serves much the same purpose.
I adore this Mexican dip so much that it has often served as a meal for me. Avocado, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander, chili and limes are healthy and healing. The Mexicans use an implement called the molcajete, but a pestle and mortar does as well. The Aztecs called it nahuatl, the name of the first fermented drink they made with the cocoa bean (see previous post on chocolate) but the word itself has since evolved to mean an avocado sauce as well (probably because the fermented drink was no longer made). I have a really easy recipe for guacamole:
3 large, ripe avocado’s, pip removed and flesh put to one side
2 Roma tomatoes, pips removed and flesh finely diced
2 Tbsp very finely chopped onion
2 serrano chilli’s finely chopped
4 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Zest of one lime (or lemon if you don’t have limes)
Juice of one lemon
Mash the avocado into the chilies until they are spread equally throughout the avocado. Do not make a puree. It must have texture as in the photograph below. Stir in everything else.
To serve – add additional chopped coriander, chopped tomato and finely chopped onion to taste. I make sure there are plenty of limes or lemons available.
To go with the guacamole? I would say an unwooded chardonnay – how about Californian (since it’s close to Mexico and I recently tried one and loved it) or if you live in South Africa, try De Wetshof. I am no wine connoisseur but that’s what I like – so if my choices ever irk, drink just whatever you like. I do. The Mexicans like their local Cabernet Sauvignon and since they invented guacamole, they should know.