Homegrown chips ‘n' dips
Summer is peak chip ‘n’ dip season, so Lynda Hallinan raids her vegetable garden for tasty snack ingredients.
Lynda Hallinan’s great tips and ideas.
Ask me for advice on what to plant in your vege patch this season and I'll tell you to “grow what you like to eat". Therefore it should come as no surprise to learn that I like to eat chips with dips…
My garden is a field of dreams. When I planted the grove of almond trees behind our house, I was dreaming of French macaron meringues, their featherlight ground almond shells bound together with egg whites laid by my free-range hens. Confession: eight years on, I’m yet to make a macaron, though I have scoffed down DIY scorched almonds.
Many of my wildest dreams never become a reality – in my former city garden, I put in a shrubby hedge of Coffea arabica in a futile attempt at espresso self-sufficiency. However, having sown three beds of heirloom rainbow corn to grind into flour, last summer I did make homegrown polenta fries and purple tortilla chips to serve with tomatillo salsa.
But given that a bag of Doritos costs no more than a couple of bucks, whereas the fancy grain mill I bought for my Kitchenaid mixer cost $299, I couldn’t honestly recommend making your own corn chips unless, like me, you clearly have more cash than common sense.
It reminds me of my inaugural attempt, a few years back, at sowing chickpeas for homemade hummus. Chickpeas aren’t hard to grow but as each furry wee pod contains only two or three peas, unless you have an entire paddock to plant out you’ll end up with a small bowlful at best. hummus,
To make your own drain, rinse and blitz a can of chickpeas with ¼ cup lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon tahini, ¼ cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon of paprika, sumac or ground cumin. Serve with a dollop of homemade chilli jam, pickled jalapenos or puréed roast capsicum.
Speckled Italian borlotti beans are much easier to grow than chickpeas borlotti bean dips and can pass for rustic hummus. Be sure to simmer them well in salted water (cook until mushy then drain), as my first borlotti bean hummus had the consistency of wallpaper paste.
It’s the Kiwi way to serve our dips from the fridge, but when we visited friends in America last year they globe artichoke made a piping hot and spinach dip.
This gluttonous recipe for a culinary coronary is scrumptious with garlic pita chips.
Trim, halve and scrape out the hairy centres from 4-5 globe artichokes. Steam until tender, then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, take a large bunch of spinach or ‘Perpetual’ silverbeet, roughly chop and sauté with onion and olive oil. Drain through a sieve until cold to remove excess moisture.
In a bowl, mix together 1 tub cream cheese, ½ tub sour cream, ¼ cup grated parmesan, ¼ cup grated mozzarella, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, several grinds of black pepper, the finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 finely sliced sage leaves. Stir in the chopped artichoke hearts and spinach or silverbeet. Spoon into a small greased baking dish and bake at 180°C until the top is golden brown and bubbling.
Is basil pesto a dip? I think so. Sow large-leafed Italian basil varieties such as ‘Genovese Giant’ (Kings Seeds) or ‘Italiano Classico’ (Italian Seeds Pronto) so you can harvest by the large bunch. Always nip the tips out to encourage bushier basil.
Don't believe the hype about kale chips. While perfectly moreish tossed on top of a posh salad, they're no good for spooning dips.
Make a quick batch of in a food processor. To 1½ cups fresh basil add ½ cup olive oil, 1-2 cloves garlic, ¼ cup toasted pine nuts and 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan. Blend until smooth, adding more oil if required.
Got a glut of cucumbers? Make raita or tzatziki, both of which double as dips or summer barbecue dipping sauces. The best cucumber varieties are firm Lebanese or the snack-sized ‘Iznik’, combined with crinkly winter or common mint. This variety has rounded rather than pointy leaves, with a strong minty aroma. Peel, deseed and finely dice the cucumber, or use a cheese grater to save a little time, then sprinkle it with salt and set aside in a colander, or squeeze gently in a tea towel, to remove some excess of the moisture. Greek tzatziki,
To make combine a small tub of yoghurt with the diced cucumber and finely chopped mint, plus as much crushed garlic as your tastebuds can handle, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Indian raita,
For switch the mint for coriander (or use both herbs), leave out the garlic and spice things up with cumin or a little garam masala.
Fresh herbs such as dill, coriander, parsley, mint and garlic chives also herby goat add instant flavour to cheese dips.
Simply blend any soft goat’s cheese (not hard crumby feta) with a drizzle of olive oil and a dollop of unsweetened yoghurt, then add your favourite herbs and pulse in a food processor with the juice and finely grated zest of a small lemon.
If you’ve just harvested a bumper crop of garlic, go hard and add it to skordalia garlic everything from to aioli.
Skordalia, for the uninitiated, is best shared with friends (as you’ll pong of garlic). In a food processor, blitz 6 large garlic cloves with ¼ cup white wine or cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon sea salt until it renders into a paste. Add 500g of cooked, cold ‘Agria’ potato flesh and ¼ cup olive oil and pureé until smooth. Squeeze in lemon juice to taste, then season with salt and pepper. Beetroot dips
are a doddle to make from either large round ‘Detroit Red’ beets or any variety of baby beets. Harvest beets, trim off the foliage (leaving about 1-2cm of stalk ends attached) and boil, unpeeled, until tender. Drain and when cool enough to handle, rub the skins off under
cold running water. When cold, blitz the beets in your food processor with lemon juice, ground cumin and coriander, yoghurt and feta cheese.
Now to the crucial matter: what types of chips can you grow? Whether potato crisps or you want thin chunky French fries,
you need main crop potato varieties with floury flesh, which means dedicating a fair chunk of your vegetable patch to a single crop for 120-140 days. Main croppers have larger, starchier tubers than waxy earlies, and take longer to mature. Let the plants flower and die down fully before digging, so the tuber skins fully cure in the ground, significantly extending their keeping abilities.
‘Russet Burbank’ is the spud favoured by commercial chippers because of its big, oval tubers, but it’s nigh impossible for home gardeners to get their hands on seed of this variety. While ‘Agria’ remains our most popular main cropper for roasting, baking and twice-cooked chips, I’m also a fan of ‘Summer Delight’ (in the Tui seed potato range) and ‘Summer Beauty’, which is an improved version of ‘Summer Delight’. These new varieties are vigorous and quick-growing, with
huge tubers weighing up to 400g each. If you can’t source these, old timers such as ’Ilam Hardy’ also do the job nicely. Protect main crop potatoes from psyllid damage with a layer of very fine grade insect mesh.
If you’re after a healthier alternative to deep-fried potato crisps, opt for carrot sticks. tender and slender Sow carrots twice a year, in mid-spring (October/November), when the soil has warmed up and dried out after winter, and again in late summer or early autumn (February/March).
Two direct sowings will keep you in carrots year-round and, because you’ll be eating one mature crop while the other comes on, you won’t have to chew your way through carrots with woody cores at the end of the season.
Spring-sown root crops are sweeter than autumn-sown ones, as they grow more quickly while the weather is good, so any carrot variety will do, whereas I’m a fan of ‘Slenderette’ (McGregor’s) and ‘Express Hybrid’ (Yates Seeds) for my winter harvests.
Transplant celery seedlings in early celery stalks November for succulent to see you through the following autumn, winter and spring. I’ve never bothered to raise my own celery from seed as two punnets of ‘Tendercrisp 2000’ (from Zealandia’s Grow Fresh range) meet all my family’s needs for crisp crudites and adding flavour to winter soups and casseroles. This variety is a slow-bolter that performs best in fertile soil with regular drenchings with liquid fertiliser. It takes three months to fully fatten up.
My dalliances with delicious DIY dips have taught me that, although it’s undoubtedly easier to simply crack open a can of chickpeas or a tin of Italian borlotti beans to bung into your blender with your choice of flavourings, it isn’t half as satisfying as serving homegrown dips with a side helping of self-sufficient skiting.
Having said that, I’ve failed in my quest to improve on New Zealand’s most popular summer dip, invented by a certain culinary creative named Rosemary Dempsey. In the 1960s, Rosemary worked in Nestlé’s test kitchen where, in an effort to bolster flagging sales of the company’s dried onion soup mix, the enterprising home economist tried stirring a packet of soup into a can of reduced cream. The rest, as they say – and indeed every time anyone says “pass the dip” at a Kiwi party – is history.
More than half a century later, onion soup and reduced cream dip remains our national dip of choice. It’s perfection on a platter, either scooped onto potato chips (I prefer thick cut over thin or kettle-fried), spooned into celery stalks or swirled around with carrot sticks.
It wouldn’t, however, be the same without a splash of fresh lemon juice, and on that front at least, let me recommend that the citrus variety you squeeze be either ‘Yen Ben’, ‘Lisbon’, ‘Genoa’ or ‘Villa Franca’ because sweet, insipid ‘Meyer’ just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Not keen on making egg aioli from scratch? Just stir a dash of Dijon mustard and fresh, homegrown garlic into good quality mayo.
Oven-baked beetroot chips with guacamole. The red-veined sorrel makes for a decorative garnish.
My homegrown and homemade purple tortilla chips.
Heirloom ‘Navajo Black’ corn is traditionally ground into flour.
It takes a basket of perpetual spinach to make a bowl of dip!
Caped tomatillos grow like weeds in warm climates.