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Fun on the side
Guacamole

Every man or woman, I am told, has a book inside him or her. I am convinced that everybody has a favourite dip, too. I thought of this the other day when we were sitting around some potato chips and elegantly cut vegetables surrounded by little bowls of dips of various kinds. The dips were so good that we got talking about recipes — and I found that everybody in the gathering was vehemently biased towards some dip or the other.

It was a pleasant conversation to have on a sultry day. Food is often our main topic of discussion when friends sit down together. But it was a hot and humid day — not quite the weather that would trigger an interesting debate on something like a korma or an Andhra fish curry. On the other hand, the heat — which does take away one’s appetite a bit — prompted quite a lively talk on dips that you can serve in these summer months.

One of my friends had rustled up a quick dip that day — a wonderfully refreshing one prepared with hung curd, some grated capsicum and cucumber, a dash of Tabasco, oregano, garlic and a bit of cheese to get the right consistency. It was perfect for a hot day, for most of the ingredients were cooling, the cheese was mild, and the Tabasco enhanced the taste without really adding too much heat to it.

Minted garlic kiwi and cheese dip

Dips are anyway good for the summer, because quite a few are yoghurt-based and rely heavily on vegetables. Most people have their own recipes for dips and I find that some people become quite innovative when it comes to putting ingredients together for a dunk. The same friend tells me that she had a delicious dip at her friend’s house recently and was amazed when she heard the recipe.

All that her friend had done was put some baingan ka bharta in the blender with olive oil, and then squeezed a lime over it. She made the bharta the way anybody does at home — roasted eggplant cooked with tomatoes, onions, masalas and so on. “So it had a wonderful taste of all these aromatic Indian spices, and had a light orange colour thanks to the olive oil and tomatoes,” my friend said. “It was just delicious.”

You may make your own dip with anything that catches your fancy, but for a nice summer dip, a light base of yoghurt or some olive oil is always advisable. Cucumbers and other vegetables add to the cooling quotient. You can put some cheese, but don’t go overboard with it, for it is not light. Sour cream, again, is a bit heavy — but tastes good when served cold.

Chef Sharad Dewan of The Park in Calcutta has given me some interesting and easy dip recipes. You can prepare a minted garlic and cheese dip at home — and he adds that you can always use hung curd or cream cheese if you don’t want the spread to be too heavy. Take 20gm grated cheese, 10gm cream, a pinch of garlic, a few mint leaves, salt and pepper. Now whisk the cheese with cream in a bowl. Add the garlic and the mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

Tabouleh

In this weather, it is better if you prepare your dip in advance and then refrigerate it. This is a recipe for a nice cold dip of baby shrimps. Take 450gm of sour cream, 1 ½tbs of a dry Italian salad dressing mix and 250gm of cooked baby shrimp.

The dry salad mix is easily available these days — but you can prepare it yourself. Just mix garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, dried parsley, a bit of sugar, salt, black pepper, basil and thyme leaves and celery flakes and keep in an airtight bottle. Now in a bowl mix the sour cream with the salad dressing and shrimps. Chill and serve.

Over the years, I notice that dips have gone global. When hostesses first started serving freshly-cut vegetables with dips, most restricted their sauces to hung yoghurt mixed with garlic or cucumber. But in recent times, West Asian and Mediterranean dips have found their place on the high table.

Chef Dewan advises us on how best to make a tasty tabouleh, a West Asian salad spread, tzatziki, a wonderful Greek dip and guacamole, an avocado-based dip.

For the tabouleh, take 300gm of bulgur wheat, one tomato, 5–6 sprigs of coriander leaves, 20ml lime juice, 25ml olive oil, a medium-sized onion, a bunch of parsley leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Now, soak the wheat overnight. Drain it the next day. Chop all the ingredients and add to the wheat. Season and then sprinkle with lime juice.

Tzatziki

The method for tzatziki is equally simple. Put yoghurt (500gm) in a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl and refrigerate overnight. Discard the liquid. Place grated cucumbers (200gm) in a fine sieve and generously add salt. Let it stand for an hour. Now gently squeeze the cucumber to remove excess liquid. Put the yoghurt, cucumber, chopped garlic (40gm), white vinegar (30ml), extra virgin olive oil (15ml) and crushed black pepper (5gm) in a mixing bowl and blend well. Season with salt.

For the guacamole, take 600gm of ripe avocado, 20gm tomato, 2 or 3 green chillies, 20ml lime juice, salt and white pepper to taste, a bunch of coriander leaves, and a medium-sized onion. Now finely chop the avocado. Chop all the other ingredients and mix with the avocado. Sprinkle some salt and add the lime juice.

A few good dips can keep a party going for hours. Trust me. I am still bleary-eyed.

Raw mango kasundi dip

Ingredients

• 2 raw mangoes, grated • Salt, to taste • White pepper, to taste • Lime juice, as required • 1tsp kasundi

Method

Grate the mangoes and squeeze out the excess liquid. Add salt, pepper, lime juice Add kasundi to it. Check and adjust the seasoning.

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