A dip secret revealed in Prague
While we were in Prague, one of Tom’s father’s cousins came to visit from Germany, so Tom’s family organised a big get-together.
In many ways, it reminded me of an Aussie barbecue. Perfect weather, everyone sat outside; delicious food, everyone ate too much; plenty of grog, everyone drank too much; and wonderful friends and family to share in the fun.
It was an unexpected and cherished bonus for us to enjoy this slice of Czech life, and to meet and learn more about Tom’s extended family. Can you believe this? His granddad, who is in his 80s, regularly hops on his bike and pedals 2000 kilometres to some place he want to see. I wonder if that will be Poor John in the future? Although his electric bike doesn’t have that kind of range.
Anyway, in preparing for the shindig, Tom asked if I’d make a couple of dips because he wanted me to show his mum how to do it. Bless his heart, he remembered how I made dips every week to take to the Friday afternoon drinks and trivia quiz at work. Tom always scored the leftovers, so had good memories of the variety of dips I made.
Tom’s mum was going to make guacamole—she makes a wonderful one—so I decided to make dips with dill pickle and semi-dried tomatoes. First task—a trip to the supermarket to buy sour cream.
I love to explore supermarkets—in any language—and this one was well-stocked and huge, with more than 40 check-out aisles. But our challenge was to actually find the sour cream. Tom didn’t know what it was called in Czech and, not surprisingly, none of the labels had any English. So it was a simple matter of walking up and down the dairy case, shaking various containers to assess the consistency of the contents. I finally chose a likely candidate, which turned out to be just the thing.
So on to the dip recipe
This recipe applies only to dips with cream cheese and sour cream as the base. It is so simple and so flexible. There are only seven core ingredients.
• 125 grams cream cheese, softened
• 125 grams sour cream
• 60-125 grams of the main flavour ingredient, roughly chopped
• onion (and sometimes garlic), roughly chopped (I use up to a whole small onion)
• some liquid (start with a tablespoon)
• some herbs and spices
• salt and pepper (optional)
The amount of flavour ingredient depends on how much you have on hand, and the strength of flavour you want—I start with 60 grams and go up from there, and have been known to use as much as 200 grams—please taste as you go.
Toss the first four items in the food processor—although you can make dip just mashing with a fork, but that requires a lot more elbow action and plenty of preliminary chopping—and buzz for a 10–20 seconds.
Unless your sour cream is super runny, you’ll realise straightaway that you need to add the liquid now to thin the mixture to a dip consistency. I usually add a tablespoon of milk, and give another buzz. Then, depending on how thick it all still is, I continue to add more liquid (no more than a tablespoon at a time) such as milk, lemon juice, olive brine, pickle juice or whatever I find in the fridge. It depends on what your main flavour ingredient is. I think dips are the perfect opportunity to use up bits and pieces in the fridge. On occasion, I’ve added chutney, salsa, curry paste, jalapeno juice, barbecue sauce, ketchup (don’t tell anyone) and horseradish—use your imagination.
Now for herbs and spices. Once again, what you use will depend on your preferences and your main flavour ingredient. Dill goes well with pickles. basil goes well with tomatoes, parsley goes well with almost everything. I often use chilli powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, Plenty of other herbs and spices can be used. Start with a handful or herbs and add more as needed. Same goes for spices, but start with a pinch to a teaspoon. You can always add more, but you can’t subtract.
Salt and pepper are the last things to toss in. If you’ve been tasting as you go, you’ll know whether either or both of these are needed. Once again, add sparingly and keep tasting.
Garnish with some chopped herbs and serve with veggies, chips or other nibbles.