It pays to have dips around over the holidays for last minute guests or snacking. But they don’t have to be heavy mayonnaise- based calorie bombs, nor do they have to be served with crackers. Use cucumber slices, home-made potato chips, apple or pear wedges, crostini or pita.

Ottolenghi’s Hummus
Ottolenghi’s is bar none the best hummus recipe we have found, smooth and creamy every time. You will never go back to making hummus with canned chickpeas. Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook.

1¼ c dried chickpeas
1 t baking soda
6½ c water
1 c + 2 T tahini, light roast if possible
4 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6½ T ice cold water

The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy. Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3⅔ cups now.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine sill running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and 1½ teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about five minutes until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.

Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out
of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.

Bagna Cauda
You can buy very expensive jars of bagna cauda imported from Italy or you can make it yourself. The classic way to serve it is to dip the vegetable, then use some bread to catch the drippings. Guaranteed to make anybody eat their vegetables.

½ c extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can afford)
3 T butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or more to taste)
10 filets salt-cured anchovy, rinsed, boned and finely chopped
assortment of raw cut-up vegetables, celery, carrots, cauliflower, radicchio and endive spears work well. baguette or rustic loaf in bite-sized pieces.

Heat oil and butter in a pot over medium-high heat until butter begins to foam. Add garlic and cook for about 10 seconds. Do not let brown. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add anchovies.

Cook, mashing anchovies with a wooden spoon until they are broken into very small pieces and dip is cloudy, about 3-4 minutes. Season to taste. Pour into a fondue pot or small flameproof casserole and pass with cut up vegetables and bread.

Serve warm.

Blue Cheese with Toasted Walnut Spread

3-4″ wedge high-quality blue cheese (Gorgonzola, St Ermite, Stilton, Cambozola)
½ c walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1-2 T mayonnaise
squeeze lemon juice
sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper

Let the cheese come to room temperature then mash in bowl. Fold in walnuts, mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Make it as smooth or chunky as you like. Check for seasoning, adding more lemon juice if desired. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Serve with crostini or apple and pear slices.

Makes about 1 cup.

Bean Dip

1 can (19-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 T olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper
½ t fresh thyme, chopped
handful parlsey, finely chopped

Combine beans, oil, fresh lemon juice and thyme in a food processor bowl. Pulse until smooth. Check for seasoning, add parsley and pulse again until well mixed. (Or do by hand in a bowl.) Spoon unto an attractive bowl and serve with fresh red pepper slices, cucumber spears, other raw cut-up vegetables or crostini.

Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread
This spread, similar to baba ganoush, works as part of a meze or as a flavourful sandwich spread. If you can roast the eggplant over fire it will taste even better, as roasting over fire makes everything taste better. For a variation, add a couple of roasted (peeled and seeded) red peppers to the mix.

1 large eggplant
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 t finely grated lemon zest
squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 T tahini (sesame seed paste)
salt and fresh-cracked black pepper
¾ t ground cumin
toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 475°F. Place eggplant on a baking sheet or roast in the barbecue until charred and very tender, about 20- 25 minutes in the oven.

Let cool until the eggplant can be handled. Remove seeds, then chop eggplant skin and all until a chunky paste. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with the eggplant paste. Check for seasoning.

Let sit for a few hours to marry flavours. Before serving, drizzle with more oil and top with sesame seeds.

Serve with pita bread.