(What? You don’t like beetroot? I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you. Beetroot is amazing.)
The UK in general doesn’t seem to be good and dips and nibblies. OK, maybe I’ll allow the range of nibbly things is satisfactory but the options for dips is far less so. You can get hummus and salsa. Maybe guacamole. Maybe flavoured hummus. If you go to the Turkish stores you can get taramasalata and cacsik. But in general the range of dips is limited.
When I go back to Australia to visit with family, dips become a regular feature of any social occasion. You drop by to visit someone and they bring out the crackers and dips. But such a range of dips! Smoky Baba Ganoush, Roast pumpkin and dukkah, Moroccan style sweet potato and cashew, Hot smoked salmon and trout with lemon and dill. And the best of all, as far as I’m concerned, Beetroot hummus.
Coming back to the UK after a visit to Australia, and coming back to the standard (narrow) range of dips, is often a disappointment. (I will point out that my disappointment in coming back may be linked to leaving hot summer weather in Australia and arriving into mid-winter January here).
So I have looked for beetroot dips at my local supermarket, no luck. The Turkish shops only do hummus in flavours like olive or roast pepper or lemon and coriander. All very nice but lacking the bright slap of colour that comes with beetroot.
My search continued, and eventually I found something at Marks and Spencer which looked promising: Beetroot, Bean and Mint dip.
And it was delicious but unfortunately, I don’t buy food in Marks and Spencer very often, and even when I did, this gorgeous purple dip was often not available. I don’t know why, surely everyone loves a beetroot dip?
So here I am in lockdown, no M&S available, it’s time to experiment.
First step, get some beetroots. Not pickled from a jar or cooked and wrapped in plastic, just raw beets – sometimes if you shop in the right place they still have the leaves attached. Roast them however you like (I usually like this recipe from Jamie Oliver). I find they’re good to do with a roast chicken. Put them in early and let them cook for a long time. If they’re wrapped tightly in foil they shouldn’t dry out. You can eat some with your chicken (they add a nice splash of colour to your plate) but save some for the next day. Once they cool, you should be able to rub the skins off quite easily (but you’ll probably need to scrub your fingers afterwards).
So you have some slightly squishy roasted beetroot with no skins on. For this recipe I used 3 half beetroot (and put tYou will need to blend this with a tin of chickpeas (I rinse mine, but you can save the aquafaba liquid for other purposes if you’re a vegan), 2-3 cloves of garlic (I use roasted because I keep a stock of roast garlic in the freezer – the fresh stuff just keeps going off on me), 1/4 cup of tahini, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a dollop of olive oil, a few twists of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin and a teaspoon of fresh chopped mint.
A note about mint: I tried making it without the mint and it fell flat. You really need the mint to lift the flavours. I guess you could you dried but remember dried is more flavoursome than fresh so add a little, give it time to soak its flavour into the mix and check before adding more.
How you blend this depends on the strength of your blender. Eventually everything will get mixed together so no point being too precious about it. My blender is getting on in years, so I blend the chickpeas with some of the liquid ingredients (tahini, olive oil, lemon juice), scrape that out into a separate bowl, then blend the soft beetroots (and they should be nice and soft – if they are still hard your blender might not cope) and once they are pureed, add them to the chickpeas, mix, taste and adjust the flavours as necessary until my tastebuds say “Wow, that’s it.”
(I can’t tell you how you’ll know. But maybe you like it minty, or with more cumin, or perhaps less seasoning so the beetroot flavour can shine through.)
Thanks to Hermione Laake for asking me to share this recipe.