This blog is so NOT a cooking blog. Mainly, because although I am an enthusiastic eater, I am a lousy cook. The lovely husband blames my impatience, overly creative sense of improvisation and inability to follow a recipe. Still, luckily fate has smiled upon me by providing aforementioned husband who not only brings in the bacon, expertly and surgically sews on buttons and generously buys me shoes but who also cooks like a dream. Being of a scientific bent, he is a keen user of weighing scales and measuring spoons and excels where I fail. While he applies himself to the finer detail, I’m good at the rough work, the peeling, chopping, wiping down, washing up and mopping, so together we make a pretty nifty kitchen team.
Before I met him, I was 3kg lighter, had a scrupulously clean kitchen and was prone to a diet of shop bought humous and crackers, occasionally coupled with an apple or a carrot, if I could find either in my mostly empty fridge. Fridges were for storing face cream and champagne and if we were meant to cook, catering wouldn’t have been invented. You get the picture, I’m not just incompetent but also lazy. If in doubt, I’d rather starve than cook. I’m no Martha Stewart or Nigella Lawson, I think we’ve established that, but among my friends, there are some true domestic goddesses and gods.
One, a Nordic beauty here in Baku, clearly adores entertaining. Her shelves heave with glossy International cookbooks by famous chefs, her canapé appetisers, tiny as they are, are always crispy with exquisite layers of tastes and textures, her meat, fish and poultry dishes always succulent and tasty, her puddings, pastries and cakes, fluffy, light and beautiful. Her table laid to perfection, she hosts large dinner parties without ever breaking out into a single bead of sweat or sporting a stray strand of hair. Another, a glamorous red head who, at one time or another, seems to have lived on every continent, smoothly reproduces and sometimes fuses dishes from all the places she has ever called home and skillfully pairs them with just the right wine, no matter how obscure or hard to come by. Being invited to her table invariably means a magical culinary trip around the world. Then there are those friends who do home cooking exceedingly well and where dinner always equals comforting soul food and cosiness, leaving you, at the end of an evening, with that wonderful feeling of being well fed and wrapped in a giant duvet of love.
Last year, around about this time, I picked up the following simple little recipe for a roasted red pepper and walnut dip. It may not be outstandingly gourmet or sophisticated but it is absolutely scrumptious and works brilliantly as a spread, a dip or an accompaniment to all sorts of food. It’s healthy and very easy to prepare with all ingredients freely available in Baku all year round , so ever since I first tried it last year, I keep a freshly made batch in my fridge every week. Personally, I like it very garlicky and spicy, so I use the maximum quantity of chilli and garlic but if you prefer a milder version, just use less.
Di’s Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
What you need
3 large red peppers, halved and seeded
2 or 3 long red chillies
2, 3 or 4 garlic cloves, crushed
75 g fresh white breadcrumbs
70 g walnuts, lightly toasted
2 tb spoons lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
60 ml olive oil
How you do it
Preheat oven to 220 C. Place the red pepper skin side up on a baking tray, drizzle olive oil over and season with pepper and sea salt
Roast for 25 minutes or until skin is blackened
Add the chillies to the tray for the final 10 minutes of baking time
Remove red peppers and chillies and place in a heatproof bowl, cover tightly in plastic wrap and set aside to cool.
When cool, carefully peel skin off the red peppers and the chilies and discard the seeds from the chilies.
Place red peppers and chillies, garlic, breadcrumbs and walnuts in a food processor/blender and pulse until well combined. Add the lemon juice, cumin and olive oil and season to taste. Process until smooth but still very slightly grainy, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.
Then tuck in! I like it best with roast Mediterranean vegetables or as a base spread in a wrap and it’s perfect to pep up left-overs!