Thursday, 23 January 2014

Artful dips and the view from Portishead

I've just been having an improvised lunch of leftovers. Mostly dips. Which sounds pretty unhealthy doesn't it? Well actually they're probably not that bad, given that I made them myself out of vegetables that might otherwise have made the compost heap in a week or so. North Somerset Arts had an Artsmeet this week, and I was in charge of Nibbles. I do hate that word; it makes it sound like food for rabbits and guinea pigs and not the sophisticated array of delicacies designed to make people drink more that I had in mind. Anyway an Artsmeet, if you've never encountered one, is a meeting of artists: the idea is that being an artist is a lonely old business and that it's rather lovely to meet others in the same position and have a bit of a social event. And it was. It was really heartwarming to see how happy everyone seemed to be to talk to each other, share experiences, talk techniques, discuss the future (how often do we do that?!) and for some, to agree to meet up again. People brought the most wonderful things they had made, in order to get a little feedback on their work. I met new friends and old and am certainly meeting up with some again. We had wine, beer donated by Butcombe Brewery and beautiful soft drinks donated by Lovely Drinks. And my dips. I do normally hate beetroot, but this was terribly moreish:-

Beetroot Dip (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem)

400g beetroot
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
100g Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon za'atar (this is the first time I've ever seen the point of this sesame and thyme-based spice mix)

Heat your oven to Gas Mark 6/200c. Wash the beetroot and put it in a roasting tin, and bake it for around an hour until a knife goes into the beetroot easily. When they are cooler, peel them and chop into smaller pieces. Put them, along with all the other ingredients, in a food processor and whizz. Check for seasoning: nothing worse than a dull dip.

The next one was roughly based on something I had at the Watershed in Bristol, but ultimately came out of my head:-

Butternut Squash Dip

1/2 a large butternut squash (no don't ask me for weights)
A smallish onion
A clove of garlic, unpeeled
A sprig of rosemary (about 3 inches)
A couple of spoonfuls of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat your oven, again to Gas Mark 6/200c. Peel the butternut squash, deseed if necessary and chop into pieces around 1cm square. Peel the onion and chop it into 8 segments. Take the leaves off the stalk of the rosemary and chop. Mix them all up with the olive oil on a baking tray, and season well. Bake for around 50 minutes until everything feels soft, stirring occasionally to get the caramelised bits off the bottom. Then let it all cool a bit. Take the skin off the garlic and put it along with everything else in a food processor and whizz. (At this point, after doing the beetroot as well, I was reminded of my days of lovingly and endlessly preparing baby food, only to have it spat across the room by a reluctant child. Ah how things have changed.) Check again for seasoning and I had to add a bit of water, just to ensure that it was the right consistency to adhere to a breadstick, rather than break the breadstick in two and suck in the bottom half like a welly in the mud.

I regretted not taking a piece of my own work along for a little feedback myself. We had specialists giving advice on painting, printmaking and ceramics, so you'd think a felted picture might be out of place. But it didn't feel like it on the night. The picture in question was based on the resident ceramicist's view from her house in Portishead so it may have been interesting to see what she would have to say about it. Tean has the most wonderful house perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the Bristol channel. Maybe I'll show her my paltry version of her view next time I see her if I feel brave:-

I'm not sure whether I like it yet. Time will tell. Or it might not be finished yet. More thinking needed.

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