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!

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Dear Dimitri, how dare you criticise British barbecuing prowess (or lack thereof)!

I love barbecue.  It’s a shame that I live in England, then.  The weather permits very little (successful) outdoor cooking and despite the best efforts of many a barbecue enthusiast, I’ve never enjoyed anything prepared outdoors in this country.  The fact is, we’re clueless when it comes to cooking meat anywhere other than the safety of the kitchen.

Tip-toe over the pond and it’s a whole different story.  Barbecue is an art and America has no shortage of towns and cities with a claim to being the home of the best barbecue in the land.  This doesn’t deter Brits from donning comedy aprons and dragging out the rusty grill at the first sign of sunshine.  No, sir!  Phonecalls are made, beer is bought and determined individuals set about preparing the area they’ll use to either cremate or under-cook a selection of poor quality meats.  Hours later and the reason why “we don’t do this very often” is clear to all.

Food companies are not deterred by inept British barbecuing either.  They thrive on it!  Sauces, marinades, sprays, sprinkles, seasoned crumbs, flavoured salt, posh pepper and a host of other flavour enhancers are widely available to mask the food-poisoning-between-bread that’s being served up.

You won’t find anything like that in my cupboard, though.  I make my rub from scratch.  Yes, sir!  Today I made a fantastic rub that is perfect for pork.  Of course, it was my good ol’ griddle that made the party go with a sizzle and not a rusty wire rack over some coals.  Still, the taste was superb and from now on, I don’t think I’ll be putting anything else on pork loin steaks!

Dimitri’s dry rub (for pork)

1 tblspoon light brown sugar

1 tblspoon coriander seeds

1 tblspoon smoked paprika

2 tspoons garlic salt

1 tspoon ground black pepper

1 tspoon ground cumin powder

half tspoon cayenne pepper

 This is a job for the pestle and mortar.  A coffee or spice grinder will probably do a good job too.  I began by toasting the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they just started to brown and release their wonderful flavour (which is nothing like the fragrant herb that they grow into).  I then ground all the ingredients to a fine powder and tipped the rub into a medium-sized bowl.

 I cut some pork loin steaks into cubes and tossed them in the powder before grilling on skewers.  I got equally good results with whole pork loin steaks cooked the same way:  A smoking hot griddle with a few minutes on each side to ensure succulence and a good char on the outside.

This rub is intended for meat that will be cooked immediately.  It’s not too sweet and not too spicy.  Perfect for summer!  Oh, and if you were wondering, no, my barbecuing prowess is sadly lacking.  I’ll keep to my griddle, thank you very much.

Meatless Mexican munchables.

Are you sure this is vegetarian?

If there’s one thing that my little brother loves to eat, it’s meat.  There are few things that he would prefer to have on his plate and to have a meal without it is not something he relishes.  Therefore, my invitations have usually contained a reference to an exciting meat dish that we can share while we catch up on what’s been going on in our lives and have a laugh.  It was with some trepidation, then, that I arranged to cook a meal for him that did not contain the magic ingredient.  My anxiety was heightened because I had only decided at the last minute to cook a vegetarian meal and I wasn’t sure how he would react.

My wife is a vegetarian and  loves Mexican food.  I’ve managed to cook up some Mexican style stuff on a regular basis using veggie ingredients and even I don’t miss the meat because there’s always lots going on flavour-wise.  I make sure that I’ve got lots of fresh coriander, red chillies and tomato salsa to keep things interesting.  If we’re having fajitas, I use Quorn chicken pieces.  If we are in the mood for chilli, I use Quorn mince or something similar from other supermarkets.  At first, I found it disappointing and slightly strange, but I’ve stopped thinking of Quorn as a replacement for meat and just use it like an ingredient.  The taste is good.  It’s the texture that doesn’t always work in certain dishes.  I’m very confident when cooking with Quorn now because I’ve used trial and error to learn how to use it best.  Mexican food is perfect for it because the cooking methods stay the same as with meat and the results are very good indeed.

For my bro, I served up two dishes hoping to hit the mark with at least one of them.  Chilli beef tacos made with Quorn mince and chicken quesadillas made with Quorn chicken style pieces.  He loved the quesadillas, so that’s the recipe I’ve included below.  I’m slightly embarrassed because as you’ll see, it’s hardly a recipe at all.  However, it is a very quick meal to prepare and they’re surprisingly filling.  Quesadillas are also about as versatile as it gets so they’re great for using up ingredients or just experimenting.  My carnivorous sibling certainly ate his fill!

Veggie quesadillas (made with Quorn pieces)

300g Quorn chicken style pieces

6 flour tortillas

1 red chilli (sliced)

handful of fresh coriander (chopped)

1 bunch spring onions (sliced)

1 red pepper (sliced)

1 tspoon smoked paprika

1 tspoon dried oregano

300g Cheddar cheese (grated)

vegetable oil

salt & pepper

Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan until almost smoking and then add the Quorn pieces, paprika and oregano.  Toss until the pieces are coated and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large frying pan and place a tortilla in it without any oil.  Sprinkle large amounts of grated cheese onto the tortilla and top with the remaining ingredients.  Add more cheese on top and press another tortilla onto this to make something resembling a pizza-sandwich.  When the cheese has melted and the bottom is golden, turn the quesadilla over and continue to heat it gently.

These are great with the usual suspects: guacamole, sour cream and salsa.  Cut them into quarters and serve immediately.

Summer is definitely here!