Saturday, 5 September 2015

Roasted pepper dip - my take on Muhammara

Roasted pepper dip

It's incredible how time flies!
When I published my previous post, at the end of June, I was not feeling like on holiday yet, but on the contrary I had the intention of writing something else before heading to Italy for my summer vacation and, most important, saying a "see you soon" to all my readers and wishing a lovely vacation to those - as lucky as me - able to take a break for a while.
But - and to be honest I can't exactly explain how - I am here to say "hello" only on the 5th of September, more than two months later. And even today what I can do is just a short and quick post, because of several other things to do. Unfortunately no time to share something about my summer in Italy. And probably when I have the time and the right concentration, it will be too late to be of interest to anyone.
But if any of you is curious to know something more about the time I spent in my home country, you can check my Instagram account where I shared quite a few pictures from Italy. It was a period of rest, also from the kitchen. time spent with the family and many aperitivi - mainly Aperol spritz, as you can see from the pictures.

But before leaving my desk, I want to share a recipe that I had made and pictured before going on holiday, still waiting to be published.

Since I particularly love Middle Eastern recipes, I like to cook myself dishes from - or inspired by - the Middle Eastern cuisine. You can find some of my experiments on the blog too, just have a look at this link.
One of the dishes that is very common to find on a mezze table, along with other small plates to share, is Muhammara (or Mhammara), a hot dip originating from Syria and popular all across the Middle East, made with red peppers blended with olive oil, walnuts, spices and other ingredients depending on the cook or family recipe. One of the ingredients always used along with peppers and pomegranate molasses is walnut that, as I've have already said before, I'm sort of "allergic" to (I do not have to go to the hospital if I have one, but my mouth gets covered in not really pleasant sores) and consequently I prefer to stay away from walnuts; and to be honest I don't even like the taste - but I think it's a consequence of their effect.
But I like all the other Muhammara's ingredients as well as the combination of them. So what I did to avoid walnuts collateral effects was just to replace them with another nut I like, namely almonds, and the result was actually particularly good.
Of course, if you want to try a more traditional version of the spread, just substitute the almonds for the same quantity of toasted walnuts.
The traditional way of serving Muhammara is as a dip, with pita bread, or as a spread on toasted bread but I think it goes very well also with raw vegetables.

Roasted pepper dip

Roasted pepper dip - my take on Muhammara 
Serves 4-6
3 large red peppers
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped or 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
50 g toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
50 g fresh bread crumbs
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
1teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to finish
1 heaped tablespoon pomegranate molasses
fine-grain sea salt
Toasted sliced almond to garnish
Heat the oven to 200°C. Place the peppers on a tray and roast for 30-35 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are cooked and the skin is blackened. Put the peppers in paper bag or in a glass bowl covered with cling-film and, once cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skin and seeds.
Pat the peppers dry, and place in a food processor (ideally this job should be done by hand in a mortar). Add the almonds, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, molasses, cumin, chilli and garlic. Process (or work with a pestle) until you have a coarse consistency. Add the olive oil and a quarter-teaspoon of s
alt and mix until well combined.
Taste and add more pomegranate molasses and/or salt to taste – the dip has to be very flavorful.
Spoon the dip into a shallow bowl, using the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center, drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish with the sliced almonds. Serve at room temperature, with toasted pita bread and /or fresh vegetable or spread on toasted slices of bread.

The dip keeps well and even improves after a day in the fridge; just don't serve it fridge-cold.