Slam dunk: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for dips, pastes and spreads | Side dishes (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

What’s the difference between a dip, a spread and a paste? It really doesn’t matter when they’re this tasty…

Yotam Ottolenghi

Sat 2 Jul 2016 09.00 BST

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I’m not very good at respecting the distinction between a dip, a spread and a paste. Is a dip still a dip if you spread the leftovers on toast the next day? Is a paste still a paste if you then use it as a condiment and have a spoonful with some grilled chicken, or spread it in a grilled cheese sandwich? Heady questions, I know, for long summer days.

Once something has been blitzed or mashed to a rough paste or puree, I’m as happy to spread it out on a platter to serve as a dip for a crowd, as I am to keep it in the fridge for a couple of days to serve as a condiment. I always make twice as much red pepper paste as I need, and keep half to have another day with grilled meat, lentils and rice. Likewise, the broad bean dip below also works as a spread, while the spinach can be eaten warm as part of a mezze, or at room temperature as a dip for pitta or crackers.

Whether you double these recipes or make them in advance, whether you eat them at once or keep them for a day or so – all are as versatile and relaxed as summer cooking ought to be.

Spinach with strained yoghurt and chilli butter

This is best served warm, but it’s also good at room temperature (in which case, incorporate the yoghurt and spinach into the dish and add the chilli butter at the last minute). Serves six, as part of a mezze.

220g full-fat natural yoghurt
60g unsalted butter
¼ tsp Aleppo (or regular) chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
500g large spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice

Put the yoghurt in a small bowl and stir in an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Put a piece of muslin in a sieve placed over a bowl, spoon in the yoghurt and draw up the edges of the muslin to seal. Twist the muslin to put some pressure on the yoghurt, then transfer to the fridge for two hours, so the liquid drips out: you’ll end up with about 150g strained yoghurt.

When you’re ready to serve, put 30g butter in a small saucepan and melt on a medium heat. Add the chilli and a small pinch of salt, cook for a minute, swirling the pan, then take off the heat.

Put the oil and remaining butter in a large saute pan on a high heat. Once the butter has melted, add half the spinach and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, cook for a couple of minutes until wilted then add the remaining spinach. Cook for another minute, stirring, until all the spinach has wilted and the water has evaporated. Add the garlic and lemon juice, cook for a final minute, stirring constantly, then transfer to a food processor. Blitz a few times (you want this to be only roughly pureed, with a bit of texture) then spoon into a shallow serving bowl and spread out while still warm. Drop spoonfuls of yoghurt all over the top, drizzle on the chilli butter and serve.

Butterbean hummus with red pepper and walnut paste

I usually make butterbean paste with dried beans that have been soaked and then boiled, because I can then use the cooking liquor to thin out the spread, if need be. Here, however, to make up for the extra effort involved in making the red pepper paste, I’ve gone for a shortcut version with tinned beans. Serves six to eight.

6 red peppers
8 whole garlic cloves
2 mild red chillies
1 tbsp picked thyme leaves
60g walnut halves, lightly roasted and roughly chopped
¼ tsp sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp tomato paste
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

For the butterbean hummus
100ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, skin on, lightly crushed
3 thyme sprigs
2 tins butterbeans, rinsed and drained (470g net weight)

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the peppers, the eight whole garlic cloves and chillies on a large oven tray lined with baking paper and roast for 20 minutes. Transfer the chillies and garlic to a bowl, cover with cling-film and set aside, then roast the peppers for another 15 minutes, until the skin is blackened. Add to the bowl with the chilli and garlic and, once cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skins from the peppers, garlic and chillies. Discard the seeds and stems from the peppers and chillies, and put the flesh in a food processor with the peeled garlic cloves, the thyme leaves and a half-teaspoon of salt. Blitz to a rough paste, spoon into a medium bowl and stir in half the walnuts, the smoked paprika, tomato paste and vinegar.

For the hummus, heat the oil in a small saucepan on a medium flame, then very gently fry the crushed garlic clove and thyme sprigs for two to three minutes, until the garlic starts to caramelise. Discard the garlic and set aside two teaspoons of the cooking oil and the thyme sprigs. Tip the remaining oil from the pan into a food processor with the beans, two tablespoons of water and half a teaspoon of salt. Blitz until the mix has the consistency of hummus, adding a little more water if needed. Spread out on a large plate, creating a natural rim around the edge, then spoon the red pepper sauce into the centre. Sprinkle over the remaining nuts, scatter over the crisp thyme sprigs, drizzle with the remaining oil and serve.

Avocado and broad bean

Lemon juice prevents the natural discoloration of avocado when it gets mashed, so you can make this ahead of time without worrying about losing that wonderfully vibrant green. Serves four to six.

250g podded broad beans (fresh or frozen )
1 large avocado, peeled and roughly chopped (190g net weight)
1½ tbsp lemon juice, plus 1 strip finely shaved lemon skin
60ml olive oil
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced

Fill a small saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Blanch the beans for two minutes, then drain, refresh and drain again. Peel off and discard the beans’ skins, then set aside 50g. Put the rest of the beans in a food processor with the avocado, lemon juice, two tablespoons of oil and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and blitz until almost smooth.

Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan on a medium-high flame, then gently fry the spring onions and lemon skin for a minute. Off the heat, stir in the reserved broad beans and a pinch of salt.

Spread out the avocado and broad bean mash over a plate, making sure there is a rim around the edge, spoon the spring onion mix into the middle and serve.

Spiced red lentils with curry leaves

This works equally well as a warm dip for six, or as a main course for two with spiced vegetables and rice.

60ml olive oil
40 curry leaves, fresh or dried
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp mild curry powder
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150g red lentils, rinsed
500g vegetable stock

In a medium saucepan for which you have a lid, heat the oil on a medium-high flame, then fry 30 curry leaves for 30 seconds, until starting to turn crisp. Add the cumin and fennel seeds, fry for 10 seconds, until aromatic, then pour the oil and spices through a sieve with a bowl underneath to catch the oil. Put the curry leaves and spices in a bowl with a tablespoon of the infused oil.

Return the remaining cooking oil to the saucepan and put it on a medium-high heat. Fry the shallots for four to five minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and caramelised, then add the remaining 10 curry leaves, ginger, garlic, chilli and curry powder, and stir through for a minute. Add the lemon zest, lentils and a third of a teaspoon of salt, stir for a minute, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and leave to simmer for 18 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are soft.

Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool down a little, then remove and discard the curry leaves. Tip the contents of the pan into a food processor, blitz until smooth, then spoon into a large, shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the fried curry leaf mix, drizzle over the remaining oil and serve.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.


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