Homegrown chips ‘n' dips

Sum­mer is peak chip ‘n’ dip sea­son, so Lynda Hal­li­nan raids her veg­etable gar­den for tasty snack in­gre­di­ents.

NZ Gardener - - Content -

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.

basil pesto

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!

Tomatillo salsa.

Caped tomatil­los grow like weeds in warm cli­mates.

Kale chips.

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