Well, I am nearly at the end of my residency in Leighton House. There is still one more visit to my kitchen for people to see where and how I work. It has been a great adventure and I loved being a chef in a museum. Fortunately, it wasn’t only me who did, but also everyone who came including my lovely new young intern who helped me with the pickling session. Shame I had not met her for the demo proper last Saturday when I made beautiful dips. Luckily, I had my gorgeous Nuria helping me and the lovely Kit Oates taking the beautiful pictures in this post, not to mention sweet Noe who was making sure everything went smoothly.
Because there are no cooking facilities at Leighton House, I decided to demonstrate dips this year — last year it was salads. I prepared the vegetables at home. I roasted, peeled and cut the beetroot.
I steamed the butternut squash. I have to say there is a noticeable difference between organic (more intense in colour and less watery) and regular which is unfortunately what I had to use that day as Waitrose had run out of organic ones.
And I grilled the aubergines and strained them to have ready to mash in Leighton House.
It is lucky I have two bowls for my magimix because they also don’t have washing facilities there except in the basement. I whizzed the beetroot with tahini.
And I poured the mixture into a bowl to add the lemon juice and garlic. I just love the colour of this dip which I learned to make in Aleppo a few years ago at Maria’s who used to do the demonstration for my groups — I wonder how she is faring now with no more tourists to keep her busy and in funds!
I then whizzed the butternut squash with tahini and poured it into another bowl to finish seasoning it.
And I didn’t need the magimix for the aubergines. I always mash them coarsely with a potato masher which I had forgotten at home but Noe came to the rescue getting me one from nearby Waitrose.
When I am serving three dips together, I like to only garnish them with olive oil. The colours are so beautiful together I prefer not to distract from them by adding a sprinkling of herbs, or sumac or Aleppo pepper.
I wondered about what to serve the dips with. Initially I was going to make pita chips but then I thought it would be best to open up the pitas and toast them whole so that I could give each half a toasted pita. What’s more, the toasted bread looked great stacked up on the wooden table — working in a museum, I had to make sure everything I was doing was aesthetically pleasing!
And here are the beautiful dips lined up looking absolutely gorgeous next to each other.
With Alan Kirwan who runs Nour, we had decided that we would also have a hands-on section during the demo but given the practical restrictions, I had to think of something very simple, so, I thought I would get them to make Lebanese tarator, a simple tahini dip served with falafel, shawarma and fried fish amongst other dishes. It was an inspired decision. We set up trestle tables in a u-shape so that they could all see what I was doing and vice versa and we asked them to bring all what they needed with them — we bought the ingredients they needed which were simply tahini, lemons, garlic and water. I started by showing them how to make it before letting them try their hand at it.
Those who hadn’t brought their utensils with them teamed up with those who had and they all had fun working together.
Well, perhaps not all. This lone lady was rather serious and totally taken by the job in hand.
Whilst on the other side, one group was having a ball making and tasting the dip.
Only one person seemed not to be having a very good time. I am not sure what it was that bugged her but she was rather stern and slightly removed from the event. I guess you can’t win them all, to use a cliché!
And here is Carole (in the red top), my charming friend who came on one of my Syrian trips and who gives me the most beautiful eggs in equally beautiful bowls which she makes herself, looking pensive. Perhaps she was worrying about the sullen young beauty who was sitting next to her.
It was just tremendous to cook and teach in the room where Lord Leighton painted: a fabulous studio in an fabulous house filled with gorgeous art. Thank you Alan for giving me this wonderful opportunity and thank you Kit for the gorgeous photos, and thank you everyone who came!
A delectable and addictive dip (watch the calories though) which also doubles up as a salad dressing. If you are using it as a dressing, you might want to dilute it with a little more water or lemon depending on your preference. You can liven this tarator up by adding 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander. And if you don’t like the taste of garlic, you can make it without. It’ll be just as good. Serves 4
150 ml tahini
juice of 1 1/2 lemons, or to taste
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
salt to taste
Put the tahini in a mixing bowl and gradually, and alternately, stir in the lemon juice and 100 ml water. Disconcertingly, the tahini will first thicken, despite the fact that you are adding liquid. But do not worry, it will soon start to dilute again. Taste the dip before you use all the lemon juice. This way you can adjust the tartness to your liking — if you use less lemon juice, make up for the loss of liquid by adding more water. Keep stirring until the sauce has the consistency of double cream.
Add the crushed garlic and salt to taste and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with pita chips or a selection of crudités or the recipes.
Tagged : alan kirwan, beautiful dip, chef in a museum, cooking in a museum, garnishing with olive oil, grilling aubergines, intern, kit oates, leighton house, nour festival, roasting beetroot, sophie minchilli, steaming butternut squash, tahini 4