Healthy Dips and Purées
 with crudités or corn chips

crudités around a healthy dip


Do you want to start your picnic with some healthy dips and crudités?

You know that you can buy all sorts of dips and purées in the supermarket but it’s so much cheaper and more satisfying to make your own – and very easy if you have a food processor.


I think the following recipes are particularly tasty when they are served with some really good olives, as well as crudités, pitta bread or corn chips.


Guacamole

This is basically mashed avocado and one of the easiest healthy dips to make. To peel an avocado, cut in it half lengthwise and remove the stone with a teaspoon or by hitting it with a sharp knife blade - but be careful! Then cut each half in half lengthwise and peel off the skin.

You can then either mash it with a fork or blend it in a processor.

Avo Sauce

An avocado makes an easy and colourful sauce for poached salmon if you blend it with a tablespoon of sherry vinegar or lemon juice and 100 grams of crème fraiche or soured cream.

Add a finely chopped green chilli, the juice of a lime, and salt and pepper to taste.

There are other things you can add to vary this dip. My favourite is to use a processor and on top of the peeled avocado, lime juice and chilli, throw in a small clove of garlic, a bunch of coriander (cilantro) and a couple of skinned tomatoes. Blend in sharp bursts until mixed but still with some texture.

guacamole with corn chips

In this picture I've served it with guacamole flavoured corn chips from Marks & Spencer.

A bit too green do you think?!

No chillis to hand? Then just use a drop or two of Tabasco in this healthy dip. No garlic? Then substitute a spring onion or two, or a quarter of a small red onion.

Skin Tomatoes

Put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a minute or two and then remove by sticking a fork in them! The skin should peel off easily.

I’ve even been known to use a spoonful or two of tomato ketchup instead of skinned tomatoes – so you see how easy this dip is to make if you’re in a hurry!

If you don’t have, or don’t like coriander/cilantro, try using a bunch of basil instead and making it more Italian, instead of the Mexican dip that guacamole traditionally is.


Spicy asparagus dip

  • 340 gram can or jar of green or white asparagus, drained
  • 125 grams of Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 125 grams of pine kernels
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 dried red chilli, crumbled
  • 1 blood or bitter orange

Put all the ingredients, except the orange, into the food processor and processor to a rough paste using short, sharp bursts.

Remove some zest from the orange with a zester or fine grater and stir into the paste with enough juice to give a nice texture and taste.


Spicy yogurt dip

This is the easiest healthy dip to make and a perfect partner for crisps, nachos and crudités. Just mix these ingredients together and keep cool.

  • 250 ml thick natural yoghurt (Greek is good)
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 desertspoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chilli paste, or a small green chilli chopped, or a few drops of hot pepper sauce or Tabasco
  • half a teaspoon of celery salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


Tapenade

Finely chop the following ingredients or put in food processor and blitz quickly to keep a fairly rough texture to the mixture.

You may need to add a little more oil if it's too dry. You can also add a few sprigs of herbs such as thyme or oragano if you have some to hand.

  • 175 g of stoned black olives
  • a 50 g can of salted anchovies, drained of oil, but keep oil and make up to 120 ml with extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  • finely grated rind of a lemon and half its juice
  • freshly ground black pepper – but NO salt as the anchovies and their oil are salty enough

This is particularly good with crudités such as blanched green beans, tiny boiled new potatoes and baby carrots.

It’s also good served on toasted bread and with quails’ eggs, or tossed in pasta, or served with barbecued chicken.

Allow the boiled or blanched vegetables to cool before packing in an airtight food container. Pack separately from the tapenade. If using with pasta, it can be mixed and then packed when cool.


Aubergine, red pepper and coriander is a healthy dip too:

vegetable dip

This is a great low-fat, healthy dip, which is also a good way of eating your daily quota of vegetables.

  • 2 aubergines
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • oil for brushing
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • half a teaspoon of ground cumin
  • half a teaspoon of paprika or pimenton
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
  • 150 ml of plain yoghurt

Chop the stem from the aubergines and cut in half lengthwise. Do the same with the peppers and remove seeds and membrane. Brush all over with oil. Put under a hot grill skin side up, until black and charred. Turn the aubergines over and cook more gently until tender (do not allow the aubergine flesh to blacken).

Put the hot blackened peppers into a plastic food bag (make sure it is a food or freezer bag because I once did it with an ordinary plastic bag and the peppers melted it!). Seal the bag and leave to cool. The steam will loosen the charred skin of the peppers, making them easy to remove.

When the aubergines are tender and cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a food processor and discard the skins. Peel the charred skin off the peppers and add the flesh to the processor.

Add the garlic, lemon juice, cumin and paprika and blitz to a purée. Add the coriander and yoghurt and blitz briefly to mix.


Taramasalata

A tangy, healthy dip for those who like the taste of the sea.

  • a slice of white bread, without crusts
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • a large clove of garlic
  • 225 grams smoked cod’s roe
  • a small potato, cooked
  • lemon juice
  • a sprig or two of parsley
  • cold water
  • salt and pepper

Soak the bread in a little cold water. Squeeze dry.

Put into a food processor or blender with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Thin with cold water if necessary to create a soft, creamy consistency.

Pour into an airtight container and chill. Serve with lemon wedges and pitta bread.


White bean and feta

white bean dip


This tangy combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours makes a great picnic snack, served with toasted pitta breads, sourdough, or mini bagels and some juicy olives if you like:

  • 410 gram (235 drained weight) can of cannelloni beans
  • 110 grams of Feta cheese
  • 150 gram tub of Greek yoghurt (I like the 2% fat one from Total)
  • a tablespoon or two of lemon juice
  • a handful of dill (or other fresh herb of your choice)

Add all the ingredients, except the herbs, and puree in a food processor until smooth. (Add the herbs if you like but they will colour the dip instead of flecking it with colour).

Then chop the herbs finely by hand and add, to taste, with a seasoning of pepper. You'll probably find the feta makes it salty enough.

Store in the fridge (keeps for up to a week) or keep in a cool box until you reach your picnic site.


Peanut dip

This mixture can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, so it's another  good choice if you want to get ahead with your preparations:

  • 300 gram tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • a small clove of garlic, crushed
  • a teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons of plain yoghurt

Blend all the ingredients, except the yoghurt, in a food processor and then thin with enough yoghurt to a dipping consistency.


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