In her fabulous book, The Cooking of The Eastern Mediterranean (Harper Collins), Paula Wolfert writes that this is one of the outstanding dips of the eastern Mediterranean, "as delicious and striking as the far more famous hummus and baba ghanoush. I urge readers to take the time to make it. I promise it will be a revelation.
"The dish comes from Aleppo, where a very flavourful hybrid of a hot red red pepper is a favourite condiment. The heat in this recipe is tamed by ground walnuts and sweet-and-sour pomegranate molasses. The Arabic name is muhammara, which means brick coloured - exactly the colour of the finished dip."
I urge you to make it too.
Make it a day ahead to allow the flavours to mellow. Muhammara is also excellent with meat or fish kebabs, and will keep well for up to a week in a closed container, improving in flavour a little each day. The ingredients can be easily halved.
- Prep Time : 15 minutes
- Cook Time : 15 minutes
- Yield : 3 cups
- red capsicums (sweet red bell peppers) - 1.2Kg
- red hot chillies - 1 -2 small
- fresh walnuts - 185g
- Matzo or wheat crackers - 1/2 cup, crumbled
- fresh lemon juice - 1 tablespoon
- pomegranate molasses - 2 -3 tablespoons
- salt - 3/4 teaspoon
- ground cumin - 1/2 teaspoon
- sugar - 1/2 taspoon
- olive oil - 2 tablespoons
- unsalted pistachios (or pine nuts) - a few, chopped
- pomegranate seeds - optional
- extra virgin olive oil - to drizzle
- ground cumin - optional
Roast the capsicums and chillies over a gas burner or under a pre-heated grill until the skin is blackened and blistered all over (if using the grill, cut the capsicums into quarters and remove membranes and seeds, then place on grill pan - it's a good idea to cover the pan with baking paper so the capsicums don't stick).
Remove the capsicums from the heat with tongs and place in a plastic bag for 5-10 minutes to steam.
Peel or scrape off the skins. If whole, cut them open and remove seeds and membranes.
Place remaining ingredients, except for the oil, in a food processor and process until smooth.
Add the peeled capsicums and one chilli and process until creamy. Taste, and add the other chilli, if desired. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream.
Spoon into a serving dish and garnish with pistachios and pomegranate seeds and drizzle with olive oil.
Dust with a little ground cumin, if liked.
I served the dip with toasted pide fingers and crudites.
Paula Wolfert suggests pita triangles which you can make by splitting the pitas, cutting them into triangles, spraying with olive oil and placing in a moderate oven until golden. They will crisp up as they cool.