When you think of Middle Eastern food, Syrian cuisine hardly ever gets the attention it deserves. I believe that this is about to change. I am guilty of being one of those who never thought twice about Syrian cuisine until someone, on MasterChef UK, served Muhammara to the judges. Their verdict was that it was the best dip they’ve ever had. Clearly, I had to give it a go.
Muhammara is a roasted red pepper and walnut dip from Aleppo. One of the key ingredients of this dish is Aleppo pepper, and I would discourage you from substituting it with any other pepper or spice. Aleppo pepper is beautifully mild in the spice spectrum, and I like to use it occasionally, when I am feeling decadent, to season my omelette or scatter a few flakes to freckle the yolk over my fried egg. It is also used to infuse the butter when making Turkish Eggs. I think I may even try infusing it in butter to flavour popcorn!
This dip is nothing like anything you may have ever tasted. It is a combination of bitter sweet, piquant, slightly tart and nutty flavours. It lends itself to a myriad of vessels you can use to get Muhammara from plate to palate, on pita bread, crudités (my fave is with some crunchy cucumber batons), or on a sweet or a salty cracker. I’ve used it in wraps with some fresh veggies and grilled chicken, and it is just as lovely on its own on a piece of crusty bread.
When you make Muhammara you can roast the red peppers if you wish to follow the traditional method. But I used the ones in the jar and they worked just fine, and even cost effective. Don’t over blitz the mixture to the state of hummus; it needs to have some of texture. And lastly, it is worth sourcing out pomegranate molasses, because like Aleppo pepper, there isn’t an equivalent substitute for it. These two ingredients are what make this dish authentically Levantine.
3 large red peppers, roasted or the equivalent in drained weight from a jar (approx 200-250 grams)
½ cup breadcrumbs (I toast pita bread and blitz it)
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ tsps ground cumin
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
1 cup walnuts, plus a bit extra for garnish
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
finely chopped parsley to garnish
If you choose to roast the red peppers, either roast them over an open flame or in the oven. Wait for them to cool before peeling off the charred skin, coring and deseeding them.
If you are using jarred roasted red peppers, like I did, drain them.
Lightly toast the walnuts, and roughly chop them, save some for garnish. In a food processor, add in the red peppers, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin, Aleppo pepper, and a pinch of salt. Puree until it’s a thick paste but still with some texture.
Transfer to a serving bow, stir in the walnuts, olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Adjust the salt, and pomegranate molasses to taste. To loosen the texture a bit, you can add a drizzle of olive oil.
Make a swirl on the surface and drizzle with olive oil so little pools olive oil glisten over the dip. To finish, scatter finely chopped parsley and remaining chopped walnuts. Chill but serve at room temperature.
It keeps in the fridge for a week or two, but it is highly unlikely it won’t be consumed way before then. Unless, like me, you are left with a “shy piece” portion for two weeks in the fridge, and you had to take one for the the team.