The Christmas party season is almost upon us, and whether you’re visiting or hosting, having a set of impressive, easy-to-make dishes to hand is a real time-saver. This is when simple dips and quick nibbles really come into their own.
Chargrilled artichokes are one of my store-cupboard heroes. You can buy them jarred or tinned and they are usually marinated in oil. My first trick is to save the oil from the drained artichokes in a separate container – if the artichokes are chargrilled, the oil will have a lovely smoky flavour, and if you drop a whole, peeled garlic clove into the oil, you have an almost instant infused oil to drizzle over pasta or garlic bread.
The drained artichokes themselves are ready to be used to make a quick and easy dip, perfect for serving hot or cold. If you’ve ever been to an American potluck party, you may have tried a hot artichoke and spinach dip, with a side of nachos for dipping. I had something similar at a party my sister hosted for her American friends, and since then it’s something I’ve always recreated on Bonfire Night and at Christmas. I make mine with Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise for some creaminess, as well as natural yoghurt, Gruyère or Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella for the ultimate oozy topping when baked.
Hot grilled artichoke & lemon thyme dip
- 1 jar chargrilled artichokes in oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 250g/1 cup Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
- 125g/½ cup natural yoghurt, or Greek yoghurt (the thicker the better)
- 50g/½ cup freshly grated Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
- 2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella, torn for the topping
- Breadsticks, fresh bread or vegetable crudités to serve
Preheat your oven to 220°C/450°F Drain the artichokes (reserving the oil for later use) and place into a blender or food processor. Grate in two cloves of garlic, then tip in the Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, yoghurt, grated cheese and lemon thyme. Blend for 2-3 minutes, until fairly smooth but retaining a little texture.
You can serve the dip cold at this point.
If you wish to serve hot, pour the dip into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the torn mozzarella cheese and a little of the fresh lemon thyme over the top.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for ten minutes until the dip is golden on top and bubbling underneath.
Don’t forget to tell your guests that it’s piping hot before serving!
For a variation on this recipe, make it up until baking point. Chop some fresh ciabatta loaves and spread some of the dip over the bread. Sprinkle over the torn mozzarella and grill until golden and bubbling.
You can also serve this hot dip as a contrast alongside cold crudités, which is my favourite way of serving it.
Another perfect store-cupboard dip is hot tuna mayonnaise. I discovered this wonderful dish by accident, wanting a quick snack as a hungry teenager. I remember cooking up some pasta, tipping in a tin of tuna and grabbing the Hellmann’s to to make an instant sauce with some texture, and swirling it through the pasta. It was a revelation! Adding in extras like cooked onion, fried slowly until almost caramelised, and button mushrooms, is a great way of using up some extra bits and pieces. Enjoyed simply, hot tuna mayonnaise tastes great with baked jacket potato – warm with warm. It works!
For my quick and easy party nibbles, I’ve revisited my accidental recipe to make a hot tuna mayonnaise dip, which is perfect to serve with fresh ciabatta bread, flatbreads or bread sticks. It couldn’t be simpler, and I’m pretty sure that you’ll almost always have these ingredients to hand.
Hot tuna and mushroom mayonnaise dip
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- 100g/1 cup button mushrooms, finely sliced
- 1 jar/can MSC-certified tuna fish
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 250g/1 cup Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
- Fresh parsley, to serve
- Breadsticks or fresh bread to serve
Drizzle a little olive oil into a frying pan. Slowly cook the chopped onions on a very low heat for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further few minutes. Drain the tuna and add it to the pan and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise and put the pan back on a very, very low heat to warm up gently.
Sprinkle over the fresh parsley and serve the dip warm, with breadsticks fresh bread or, vegetable crudités.
If you want to make this dip in advance, pause once the pan is off the heat, and add the Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise when you’re ready to serve.
Words and Photos by Ren Behan