All the trimmings.

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I’ve written before about my love dips and there are a couple of recipes on this blog that I use regularly.  A new favourite is this smoked salmon dip.  Me and N were looking forward to our wedding anniversary recently and I said I’d make us a nice breakfast.  Smoked salmon is perfect for occasions and I decided to make a tasty dip with some that could also be spread on bagels.

It was a perfect choice for breakfast because it was fairly light and great with some toasted bagels.  Later I made some bagel chips by slicing a bagel and toasting the pieces on a baking tray under the grill.  These were fun when I got into a dipping mood…and you know how that goes.

This dip can be made with some basic ingredients and the addition of smoked salmon trimmings makes it easier on the pocket.  In my opinion, using the finest smoked salmon you can buy for a dip like this would be wasteful and foolish.  The flavours are still just as smokey and delicate with trimmings and the result sublime.

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Smoked salmon dip

300g cream cheese

150ml double cream

150g smoked salmon trimmings

12 cornichons (sliced)

1 tblspoon fresh chives (chopped)

1 good handful fresh dill (chopped)

1 heaped teaspoon horseradish sauce

sea salt and black pepper

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You’ll love how easy to prepare this dip is; five or six minutes, tops!  In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the double cream until it just begins to stiffen.

Add the cream cheese, horseradish sauce, dill and pepper.  Combine using the mixer and finish by adding the cornichons and salmon trimmings.  Mix together and then taste.  Season with sea salt and plenty of black pepper.

However you choose to serve this, finish it by sprinkling a generous amount of freshly chopped chives on top.  It’s not just for colour, the faintly onion flavour goes so well with the salmon and helps keep everything light and fresh.

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A dip for all seasons.

My love for dips is no secret.  I’m not sure why I can’t resist them, but make no mistake; when there are dips around, I’ll be close by.

Garlic and onion, sweet mustard, sour cream and chive, sweet chilli, satay, tzatziki, taramasalata, baba ganoush…the list goes on.  I’m happy dipping bread and all kinds of things until there’s an empty bowl.

Last week I shared my recipe for a rich beef mole and admitted that I used it as a dip for my tortilla chips.  I just couldn’t help it to be honest.  I’m doing my best to cut down on the nacho action, but as a final word on the subject, I’ve decided to share a recipe of mine for chili cheese dip.  The world is full of wonderful versions of this, but I like mine because it’s creamy, really cheesy and open to the addition of other ingredients if it takes my fancy.  In the height of summer, or the depths of winter, this dip will see you through.

Once you’ve tried this, you won’t make chili cheese dip any other way!  Enjoy.

Dimitri’s chilli cheese dip

5 tblspoons double cream

1 red onion (finely chopped)

1 medium red chili (quartered, then sliced)

55g mature Cheddar cheese (finely grated)

2 tspoons olive oil

1 tspoon smoked paprika

sea salt (optional)

I made this dip in a milk pan.  It was the perfect size for a small bowl of dip, but you can increase the amounts and make the dip in a large pan if necessary.

Begin by cooking the red onion in the olive oil on the lowest heat until it is beginning to caramelise.  This brings out the sweetness of the onion.  Add the chilli and give it a good stir.  Cook it for a further two minutes and stir to stop the onion from burning.

Pour in the double cream and stir.  Add the smoked paprika.  Tip the Cheddar in and stir thoroughly until completely melted.  Keep stirring until the dip is nice and thick.  Taste it.  If it needs a little salt to bring the flavours out, add some a little at a time and keep tasting as you do so.

That’s it! Done!  You could do lots with this basic recipe.  Add more chili, throw in some jalapenos, use different cheese, mix in some chopped Chorizo with the onion, add roasted garlic or stir in fresh coriander at the end of cooking.  Just make sure you have plenty of stuff to dip in because this is delicious!

Beef mole. No, really!

It’s funny what you can end up cooking when you’re looking for inspiration.  What began as a search for a fun chocolate recipe ended as a mini voyage into one of my favourite cuisines; Mexican!

I was looking for some ideas for a recipe that made use of what I already had in the cupboard and I specifically wanted to use some dark chocolate that’s been looking at me for a few weeks now.  Before I knew it, I was reading about mole and beginning to feel inspired.  In Central America, a mole is a thick, often spicy sauce made with numerous ingredients that can include chillies and dark chocolate.  There seemed to be a handful of variations and each of them sounded delightful.  Being a nacho fiend, I was beginning to see a serious dipping opportunity.

Having made the decision to use only what I had in the cupboards and fridge, the mole I made included minced beef.  Mole is especially popular because of its complex flavours and satisfying kick.  I couldn’t wait to experiment with it.  What ensued was an attack on my cupboards as the ingredient list grew and grew.  As always, I’m conscious that the recipe I’m sharing with you today is not necessarily a traditional mole, but one that I came up with over the course of a very hot afternoon.  With that in mind, some of the ingredients may alarm you, but trust me when I say, the taste is not disappointing!  I managed to surprise myself and I hope this recipe surprises you too.

This is one recipe that I’ll be making for years to come and I suspect that I’ll be trying other moles using chicken, pork and all kinds of chilies.  The sauce itself is more like a chilli con carne in consistency and I’m not saying that it can compete with an authentic Oaxacan mole.  It is however, fun to make, delicious and open to all kinds of adaptions.  Get ready then, for something different, something that I wasn’t expecting.  Is it a chocolate recipe?  Well, not exactly, but I hope you love it as much as I do!

Beef mole

400g chopped tomatoes

250g minced beef

200g tinned kidney beans

2 onions (quartered)

2 Chipotles (soaked in water)

1 red pepper (roughly chopped)

4 garlic cloves

1 medium red chili (roughly chopped)

35g dark chocolate

1 tblspoon smoked paprika

2 tspoons coriander seeds

2 tspoons chili flakes

1 tspoon ground allspice powder

1 tspoon garlic salt

1 tspoon dried oregano

2 tspoons mint sauce

1 and a half tablespoons peanut butter

black pepper

1 tbslpoon sunflower oil

olive oil

sea salt

I began by browning the beef mince with plenty of black pepper in a little olive oil and then setting it aside.

Next, I gently toasted the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they began to release their flavour.  I added them to a container with every ingredient except for the beef, Chipotles, kidney beans, chocolate and sea salt.  Using a handblender, I made a puree and then heated it in a heavy based pot for about twenty minutes on a low heat.  During this time, I added the Chipotles and the water they’d been soaking in, the kidney beans and all of the beef.  I also grated the dark chocolate into the mole and stirred it occasionally so that the sauce didn’t stick.  I removed the Chipotles when the sauce was cooked.

Once the mole was thick, I tasted it and seasoned it with sea salt.  I wanted to use the mole as a dip, so I didn’t add too much salt- my tortillas are already salted.  This mole is not very spicy, but you could add more chilies if you want a real kick.  This has just enough fire to make it fun.  Let me know if you make it.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Celebrity chefs; they’re just like us, ya know!

Ah, the life of a television chef.  A kitchen casually furnished with the most expensive utensils, pots of fresh herbs, a fridge so large it could lead to Narnia and not a bad camera angle in sight.  Then of course, there’s the lifestyle; endless socialising with every demographic imaginable, hours to kill at the local market and then the unconvincing  speeches about how they juggle a demanding career with family time.

As people have become more interested in food, so chefs have become more interested in our domestic lives.  There’s been a shift towards everyday cooking that seems to be a way of connecting to an ever-growing population of home cooks and food enthusiasts, who genuinely have to balance their food interests with work and family.  A quick look at the titles in the cookery section of the book stores [that folk used to visit] is testament to this;  Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals (Jamie Oliver), A Taste of Home: 200 Quick and Easy Recipes (Angela Hartnett), Real Fast Food (Nigel Slater), Mexican Food Made Simple (Thomasina Miers), River Cottage Everyday (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), Cooking For Friends: Food From My Table (Gordon Ramsay), Nigella Express and Kitchen: Recipes From The Heart of the Home (Nigella Lawson).

A few months ago, I watched a repeat episode from the undisputed queen of comfort food, Nigella Lawson.  During the programme, Nigella talked about her perfect sun-downer and bowl of chips.  After a long day “at work”, her prefered method of unwinding is to drink an Americano cocktail and munch on some tortilla chips with her Jumbo Chili Sauce.  The recipe for the sauce is from her brother-in-law and it looked so simple that I decided to give it a go.  I thought that even I wouldn’t be able to mess it up.

It was good, but I thought it needed refining, so I spent a little time making it more palatable- more of a tickle than a slap.  In essence, what I loved about the dip (and it is a dip, not a sauce), was the amount of coriander in it.  I adore fresh coriander and I’m constantly trying to find vehicles for this wonderfully fragrant friend.  My better half is not keen on coriander at all, but even she has succumbed to it through this very addictive dip.  I now make this on a regular basis to get my coriander hit and I keep it in the fridge ready for that sun-downer moment.  I may not live the life of a celebrity cook, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve some tortilla chips and an Americano.  Actually, make it a Mexican beer and I’ll unwind by telling you how difficult it is to juggle kids, cooking and a photo shoot.  If only.

My perfect nacho dip

1 jar roasted peppers

1 bunch coriander (about 40g)

1 clove garlic

1 red or green chili

1 lime

I always make this using a hand blender because it’s very quick and I can store the dip in the container it’s made in afterwards.  It’s simply a matter of blending everything together, so for taste, the order that you add everything is unimportant.  However, because I make this with a hand blender, I usually put the chili and the garlic in first to avoid them accidentally flying into my eye.

I roughly chop the chili and throw it in followed by the garlic and then all of the coriander.  You must add the stalks.  Too many people throw them away, but they contain the most flavour.  Next, tip in the roasted peppers.  Use peppers packed in oil, not vinegar, otherwise you’ll end up with a nasty after-taste.  Using peppers in oil also means that you don’t need to add any extra oil.  Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into the colourful mix.

Now you’re ready to blitz it all.  Once it has reached a nice consistency, you’re ready for dipping!  The great thing about this dip is that you can tailor it to your own taste.  I don’t add salt because the tortilla chips will be salty enough.  I always use a whole bunch of coriander (up to 80g) because I love it.  If I’m in the mood, I’ll add more chilis and keep the seeds in for extra heat.  I love how quick it is to make and it keeps well in the fridge.  Yet another weapon in the battle against gloomy, rained out days!