Reading Zami: A Spelling of My New Name, I was thrilled by the description of a table laid for a party. Alongside crudités, caviar, pretzels and mixed nuts is a bowl of sour cream and onion dip, made from Lipton’s onion soup mix. Growing up in Australia it was a staple, but I hadn’t eaten it in years.
The original recipe is, literally, child’s play. You simply open a sachet of onion soup mix and stir it through a tub of sour cream. If your family are so inclined, you might chop some chives over the top. But finding the right soup mix twenty-five years later has been a series of disappointments. You might be luckier than me, but I have instead taken to putting together my own from my spice cupboard. Don’t skip the MSG here (look in east Asian supermarkets or online) – it’s the real flavour hero. When I first put out a dish of this for friends, it was described as a dip that tastes exactly like crisps. Which is precisely what it is.
Sour Cream and Onion Dip
Makes a good-sized bowl for a party
2tbsp dried onion flakes
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp garlic powder
½tsp dried mustard powder
½tsp flaky sea salt
1/8tsp black pepper
600ml (scant 2½ cups) sour cream
Plenty of chopped chives, to serve
1. Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir through the sour cream. Taste – this is a personal thing; you might need more heat from mustard, garlic or black pepper, or more salt to bring it all to life.
2. Top with the chopped chives, and serve alongside plenty of crudités and some corn chips.
If, however, you’re planning on buying some dips to serve alongside (or instead of) the sour cream and onion, I heartily recommend you tart them up a little (like all of us before a party, a pot of dip could always use a bit of a zhuzh). Allow me to offer some ideas:
The smoothest supermarket hummus is lovely swirled onto a plate, and dressed with some good olive oil and dukkah, or a big pinch of ground paprika. Serve with salted crisps.
A tub of taramasalata spooned into a flat bowl can be topped with a tablespoon of capers fried in a tablespoon of olive oil until crisp. Eat with squidgy fingers of focaccia.
Tzatziki from a pot is even better if you stir through some chopped dill. Fry some cumin and coriander seeds in a tablespoon of butter until the butter just starts to brown, and pour it over the top. Brilliant with crunchy crudités.
Top baba ganoush with a swirl of tahini, a handful of toasted pine nuts, and lots of coriander leaves. Serve it alongside some flat bread or pita.
The other Australian classic from my childhood was sweet chilli sauce stirred through cream cheese. Nowadays, I prefer something a little sharper; try whisking a tablespoon of gochujang paste, a teaspoon of rice vinegar and a teaspoon of honey through a 180g (6oz) tub of cream cheese. Cream cheese is thick, so it needs something robust for dipping, like rice crackers or crisps.