Saturday 9 February 2008

GYO #7 Dipping into the garden

Our garden is small and humble – just a handful of pots in a sea of concrete. Our lemon tree is doing well but our lime tree thinks it lives in Michael Leunig’s Curly Flat. Most of our herbs are doing well, apart from the recalcitrant parsley.

I do use the herbs a little in my cooking – a bit of fresh thyme or chives in this, a bay leaf in that. But they are mostly subtle background notes. They don’t often feature in my cooking because I don’t like to use too much for fear of killing off my young plants altogether.

This week I had the pleasant problem of needing to use up some of the herbs. The mint has flourished (under the garden tap as recommended by my mum) to the extent that I was concerned it would either wilt or be eaten before I got to it. The rosemary is doing well and my mum has told me I need to trim it so it will be bushy. So here was my challenge – mint and rosemary.

In a doctors waiting room recently I saw a recipe for pea and bean dip in an old magazine but never got the details of the recipe. It was all the inspiration I needed. I recently made a pea pesto and was delighted by the taste and colour, so was keen to try peas in a dip again. Peas and mint are a classic combination so I thought I would try this. It worked wonderfully. The colour is a lovely green, the texture is chunky and the taste is fresh and light.

Once I had bought a tin of beans for my pea dip, I decided I only needed half of it, which mean I had leftover beans to use. A dip I have fancied lately is white bean and roasted garlic after my success with roasted garlic in a pea soup. I had also seen a rosemary and white bean dip some time ago that got my attention. But I had bought too many sweet potatoes for my Mexican croustade. The oven was already on for my moist bran muffins that I baked during the week, so I put the garlic and sweet potato in the oven to roast.

The initial version of this dip was a little sweet and bland. E helped with tasting. He recommended Tabasco because he thinks everything tastes better with a bit of Tabasco. I was so impressed with the addition of smoked paprika in my recent cheese, onion and potato bread, that I was keen to try it again. So I put in some chilli paste for E and smoked paprika for me. Now all the flavours melded so that the sum was greater than the individual parts. The end result was a dip that was smooth as velvet with deep smoky flavours and a little bite. I think I liked it better than the pea dip, although both are most pleasing.

I have been enjoying both dips on bread, toast, dry biscuits during the week. They are all the more satisfying for being my own creation and using herbs that I have nurtured in my own garden. I am glad to have used some of the herbs as we have had quite a bit of rain which means the plants will flourish and there will be even more to use.

I am sending these recipes to Andrea for her Grow Your Own event which celebrates cooking with homegrown products.

Pea, Bean and Mint Dip

1 cup frozen peas
½ x 400g tin of canellini beans (or other white beans)
1 handful mint
1 tbsp parmesan, grated
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch salt
Good grind pepper

Put the peas in the microwave to thaw and heat a little. Drain and rinse the beans. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend to combine – it is fine if it is still just a little chunky. Check seasoning.

Smoky Sweet Potato and Bean Dip

2 small sweet potatoes (approx 200-250g)
½ bulb of garlic
½ x 400g tin of cannellini beans (or other white beans)
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
½ tsp chilli paste
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp salt

Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and place in oven at 190 C for about an hour til soft and cooked through. Chop the tips off the garlic bulb and place on a square of foil. Spray with olive oil and bring up corners of foil to twist together to make a little foil bag. Place in oven for about 30 minutes or til garlic is soft. Drain and rinse beans.

Cool both sweet potato and garlic a little. Squeeze sweet potato out of its skin and squeeze garlic cloves out of skin. Place garlic and sweet potato in food processor with remaining ingredients til smooth. Check seasoning.

On the Stereo:
Travels in Constants vol 13: Appendix Out


  1. I love the sound of your sweet potato and bean dip!

  2. Oooh, the sweet potato/bean combo sounds wonderful to me. And lucky you, to have a herb garden. I've never attempted one, but in this new place, may try it out this summer (if it ever comes).

  3. Mmmm looks amazingly good! Lovely colours!

  4. thanks Ann - it was delicious

    thanks Ricki - I thought of you with the sweet potatoes after your lucky comestibles series. I am sort of enjoying the herb pots between bouts of fear that all my plants will die! I am dreaming of increasing the garden next year if it is still going strong.

    thanks holler - yes, pleasing colours indeed!

  5. What is it about men and Tabasco? My husband puts it on everything as well, I've even seen him put it on Thai food! Last year for our Anniversary, I bought him just about every Tabasco item imaginable from the Tabasco Country Store. I wrapped up this huge box containing individually wrapped Tabasco condiments as well as Tabasco candy, shirts, mugs, beer huggies, etc. I think it was the best present I ever gave him :)

    Love your inventive dips, the mint and pea caught my attention and do sound like a great combination.

  6. thanks LisaRene - I am going to be checking out that tabasco site! I think one of E's favourite terms is Tabasco Fiasco - any excuse to use it! But I think maybe he is maturing as he used to put tomato sauce on everything and now he has graduated to tabasco which doesn't offend me so much - but I still insist he tastes food before dousing it!

  7. I would definitely go for that sweet potato and bean dip, it sounds fabulous! Thanks for a tasty entry for Grow Your Own!


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