Pomegranates and Pepper Flakes
I first tried Muhamara last week in a fab restaurant called Caravan in Kings Cross, London. It was served underneath some deliciously grilled quails legs. But before then I’d been drooling over the recipe in the new Lebanese/Moroccan/Persian cookbook “The Jewelled Kitchen” by Bethany Kehdy. I’ve had the book in my possession since its launch party at Food Blogger Connect earlier in July and have spent many hours flicking through it and deciding what to cook first. The dip wins the prize! Bethany’s book is an excellent insight into recipes from her heritage, with meticulous detail. Just read the intro for Tabbouleh for a start – who knew that chopping parsley correctly was such an art, as well as being integral to the dish. The Jewelled Kitchen It is currently taking pride of place on my expanding shelf of cookbooks that I’m sure I’ll be dipping in and out of on a regular basis.
In Bethany’s introduction to her “Chargrilled Sweet Pepper & Walnut Dip” (page 55) she describes how Muhamara is actually the Arabic word – and means reddened or crimsoned. The vibrant red of this dip is certainly its defining feature. I’ve amended her recipe slightly since I didn’t have access to Aleppo pepper flakes, nor wanted to buy cayenne pepper. I also left out the breadcrumbs for a gluten-free version. I had thought about replacing them with ground almonds, but as I was making it up I decided the texture worked just fine, and it wasn’t necessary to add additional calories with the nuts. This is a traditional Middle Eastern recipe and many interpretations across the Levant can be found. Bethany prefers her dip chunky, but I’m a smooth operator so have used a food processor to whizz up mine.
I’ve been preparing for this recipe all week. Which also means that I’ve been getting excited about making this recipe all week. Though the recipe is incredibly quick and simple to knock up it does include some items that until now have not been part of my ever expanding pantry. First I hunted in many Middle Eastern supermarkets for the pomegranate molasses and red pepper flakes then subsequently made a special trip to the fishmongers for the squid. For some reason I really like the idea of serving the squid with this dip – since the squid is covered in red pepper flakes too they complement each other fabulously.
Pomegranate molasses seem to be rather ‘on trend’ at the moment, and I shall look forward to using up the rest of my new bottle in recipes to come. The Molasses are a sweet, yet sour syrup made from boiling down pomegranate juice. Many bottles I initially found seemed to have an irritating dollop of sugar included. I could have course made the molasses myself but after a bit of perseverance I found a reasonably priced product I was happy with, and also subsequently discovered Arabica Food & Spice Company which sells an entirely pure product (all be it pricey). Though a natural form of sugar, it is still a sugar, so go easy with your quantities. I used only a tablespoon in this entire recipe.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
- 400g raw red pointed peppers (approx 4)
- 50g walnuts
- 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch salt (Celtic or Himalayan)
- few sprigs of mint, finely chopped
- First you need to chargrill the peppers. Since I don’t have a BBQ in my flat, the best way to do this is to place the peppers on the naked flame of the gas hob, and cook for approx 10 minutes turning regularly to ensure the peppers blacken all over. I used 2 burners at once. Remove and place in a plastic food bag and leave to cool for 10 mins. When cooled used the bag to pull off the blackened skin. Next de-seed and chop the pepper into chunks.
- Place the walnuts in the food processor and pulse till them resemble chunky crumbs. Remove.
- Put the peppers in the processor with the molasses, cumin, paprika, red pepper, salt and pulse till the spices are incorporated
- Add the walnuts back in along with the olive oil and blend until desired consistency is reached.
- Spoon into serving bowl and chill until ready to serve (the longer you leave the better the flavours develop)
- Before serving drizzle with a little extra oil and sprinkle over the mint.
Double Pepper Squid
- 4 squid, cleaned, backbone removed and sliced into rings (the fishmonger can do this for you)
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil (+ a little extra for griddling)
- 2 tsps dried red pepper flakes
- A good pinch of cracked black pepper
- Place the squid with the other ingredients in a bowl and toss. Leave to rest in the fridge till ready to cook.
- Heat up a griddle pan with a splash of oil, and when hot add the squid. Give it 2 minutes each side and it should be done.