It is sometimes hard to accurately trace the origins of a dish to a specific city, but that is not the case with Muhammara. This spicy red pepper and walnut dip originates from one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world – Aleppo in Syria. Muhammara combines sweet, sour and tangy ingredients to create an addictive multi-layered flavour. Traditionally, Muhammara uses Aleppo chilli peppers to bring a mild smokey spiciness to the dip. However, if Aleppo chilli peppers are not available then using a mixture of red chilli powder and paprika, like I have done, is a good alternative.
(makes 1 cup)
2 red bell peppers (capsicum), roasted and peeled (directions below)
1 plump garlic clove, peeled and cut into 4 large chunks
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, lightly toasted (I toast a medium-sized piece of pitta bread and let it air-dry)
1 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or flakes (or according to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- To roast your red bell peppers, preheat your oven to 220°C (fan assisted). Wash and dry your bell peppers and then cut them in half (top to bottom). Remove and discard the seeds, membranes and stalks. Place your bell pepper halves (cut-side down) on a baking tray lined with baking parchment paper. Roast in the middle shelf of your oven for 20-25 minutes. The skin can be allowed to get quite charred without any problems, but do check from time to time to make sure they are not burning. Remove from the oven and immediately put the hot bell pepper halves into a bowl covered with a lid or plate. The steam created in the bowl will help loosen the skin and make it easier to remove from the bell peppers. After 5-10 minutes, remove the lid and peel off the bell pepper skin. Place your peeled bell peppers in a bowl. They are ready to use immediately or refrigerated and used within 5 days.
- Lightly toast your walnuts in a dry pan on the stovetop or in the oven.
- Lightly toast your breadcrumbs. I find it easiest to do this by simply popping some bread (I use a medium-sized piece of pitta bread) in my toaster for a few minutes and then letting it air-dry. I then run it through my food processor to turn it into crumbs.
- To make the Muhammara dip, put all the ingredients into your food processor and process until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Refrigerate and eat within 4 days.