Snack attack: Mark Hix whips up delicious dips

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There isn't a guest at any party in the land who can resist a dip. Eaten without cutlery, ideal with drinks, tasty as you like – it's possibly the perfect dish for almost any kind of entertaining. But what is a British dip? We don't really have a dip culture in this country, unless you count the ubiquitous packets of crisps and jars of ready-made salsa we're encouraged to buy to take home and eat while watching a movie, or the chopped carrots with bought guacamole we put out at parties.

But the category has grown over the years, with lots of influence from abroad, from mayonnaise-based dips to hummus and even baba ganoush, the creamy Mediterranean aubergine salad.

It's very easy to create your own dips. Unsurprisingly, mayonnaise, yoghurt and sour cream are all good starting points, and they don't need to be too much work. The key to making a really tempting, mouth-watering dip is the magic you work by adding chopped herbs, purées and even bottled sauces.

Smoked mackerel and horseradish dip

Serves 6-8

This is a quick and simple one that you can serve with fingers of toast, brown bread or sourdough, or try some leaves of chicory for a healthy alternative.

4 smoked mackerel fillets, skin and bones removed
1tbsp creamed horseradish
2-3tbsp crème fraîche

Put the mackerel fillets in a food processor with a tablespoon of water, or enough to enable it to blend, and blend into a coarse purée. Add the horseradish and crème fraîche and give it a brief mix, then transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until required.

Botarga dip

Serves 4-6

Botarga is dried grey mullet roe and, although considered a second-division fish in the UK, it is a highly-prized ingredient in Italy and Greece. I had this dip a while back, on holiday in St Tropez. I bought it from a local deli to snack on one night with drinks and absolutely loved it. You can use the dried Italian botarga for this, or the soft Greek botarga.

6tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
3tbsp Greek yoghurt
1tbsp dried botarga powder, or the equivalent of grated, or about 30-40g of soft Greek botarga
The juice of half a lemon
A good pinch or two of cayenne pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and add the lemon juice to taste and leave in the fridge overnight. If you are using the soft Greek botarga, then just mush it up with a fork or blend it with a little of the yoghurt.

Madras dip

Serves 6-8

This is a good dip to serve with poppadams or fingers of naan bread, or even plantain chips.

tbsp vegetable or corn oil
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A small piece of root ginger weighing 20-30g, scraped and grated
1 small chilli, finely chopped
1tsp tomato purée
tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground cumin
tsp cumin seeds
The black seeds from 6-8 cardamom pods
4tbsp Greek yoghurt
2tbsp crème fraîche
2tbsp chopped coriander

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan and gently cook the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and spices for a couple of minutes on a low heat, stirring as they are cooking. Next, add the tomato purée and about 100ml of water and simmer for a couple of minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Then remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. Once cool, whisk in the yoghurt, crème fraîche and coriander and refrigerate until required.

Roasted red pepper dip

Serves 6-8

This is a brilliant summery dip to serve with crudités, or for dipping into with chunks of crusty bread or slices of focaccia. You could make this with green or yellow peppers if you wish – and it's also great spread onto pizza dough in place of tomato.

1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp olive oil
4 red peppers, quartered and seeds removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Line a grill tray with foil and lay out the pepper quarters skin side up. Place under a hot grill until the skins are black, then transfer to a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Meanwhile, gently cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until soft, and remove from the heat. Remove the skins from the peppers and place them in a food processor with the onions. Blend until smooth and season to taste.

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