Muhammara Recipe

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a trial for me. Lainy is due to have our first baby in under ten days now, and I have stupidly over committed on many a demanding project. Plus, there’s the world cup. Sydney is in an unlucky situation yet again where the matches are held at midnight or after, which means I am partially sleep deprived. I guess that’s good because I will become fully sleep deprived when the baby comes, so maybe I should consider this as practice.

One of the projects I am working on is on a vein similar to my harebrained secret dinner, which means I have been brainstorming concepts for a Lebanese influenced dish that is simultaneously easy to cook for 70 people, tastes phenomenal, and manages not to look like a piece of shish tawook with garlic sauce and tabbouli. In the process, I’ve probably sketched around 10 dishes, imagined 20 more and attempted to cook half of those. It is only when you go through this process that you gain an appreciation for what chefs go through to come up with something original and exciting. One of the dishes I dreamt up is a slow cooked beef shin with green wheat (called freek) and muhammara. Delicious, but ugly as sin. Maybe one day I will figure out how to make that dish look good and The Food Blog will showcase it, but for now, I just want to share the recipe for the muhammara.

I don’t recall eating muhammara as a child. Maybe because my parents are from the South or maybe it’s because I grew up in Jbeil, but muhammara was never on the menu. According to Wikipedia, it’s a Syrian dip, and Wikipedia never lies, right? On my last trip however, Syrian troops had left Lebanon, and maybe Lebanon was again free to celebrate the food traditions of its neighbours, or maybe I was at the right place at the right time… but I ended up in this restaurant up North with friends, and friends of friends, sitting opposite to this very Lebanese guy with a thin moustache who all of a sudden started lecturing me on chicken livers, and saying something about how before chicken liver reaches The Gate (pointing to his mouth) it needs to pass by The Two Customs Officers (pointing to his nostrils). I’d love to tell you the story in person as I can never express the hilarity of the situation in writing. But to move on, the restaurant was serving muhammara with grilled meat skewers and I got a taste for this delicious dip. Capsicums are roasted on an open flame and then blended with walnuts, toasted bread, pomegranate molasses, garlic, sugar and lemon juice. The lot is spiked with chilli and then emulsified with olive oil. In a way, it’s a sort of Middle Eastern pesto, only hotter and more complex in flavour. It’s all together charred, sweet, rich, spicy and sharp, and goes well on its own with bread or with any form of grilled meat or firm fish. I’m sharing Greg Malouf’s recipe from his awesome book Saha. Try it and it will become a staple, but make sure it passes by the customs officers.

Muhammara Recipe – Adapted from Greg Malouf’s Saha

Ingredients

  • 3 large red capsicums
  • 1 red bullet chilli, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 125 shelled walnuts
  • 1/3 cup lightly toasted fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • juice of ½ lemon-1 lemon (depends on size and taste)
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

1- Char the capsicums on an open flame, turning until blackened thoroughly
2- Put the capsicums in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This steams the capsicums and helps them continue cooking and softening
3- When cool enough to handle, remove the charred exterior with your hand. Don’t rinse because that removes the nice smoky flavour. Take the seeds out and put the flesh in a blender or food processor
4- Add all other ingredients except the olive oil
5- Blend into a paste and then add the oil in a thin stream until the paste is thick and creamy
6- Taste and adjust ingredients if you have to
7- Allow to cool before serving

12 Responses to “Muhammara Recipe”

  1. Hysterical. I don’t need you to tell me the story in person… I can only imagine. Typical eh!

    This looks lovely and we didn’t really eat muhammara growing up until later for some reason my aunt started making it. I’ll have to ask her why now… pretty odd.
    .-= Bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets)´s last blog ..Taste Lebanon- A Culinary Journey Across Lebanon =-.

  2. Lol. Love the analogy of the two customs officers. I think I sacked mine a while ago! The gate is open!
    .-= Helen (grabyourfork)´s last blog ..Win a 12-month subscription to one of four food magazines =-.

  3. Ha Ha!! I could picture the scene, it must have been hilarious; well we all know that the Syrians have pretty awesome dishes and this one is one of them; I did not have it growing up either (grandma is from Saida and Deir el-Kamar) but I love it. Glad Greg Malouf did not decide to give it his spin and stayed true to the classic version.
    Love your photo up at the top. Wishing your lovely wife a speedy and comfortable delivery.

  4. Reemski says:

    Love the capsicum photo. Just gorgeous. Am inspired. Will give it a whirl tonight I think, and best of luck with your special delivery!
    .-= Reemski´s last blog ..Back on Track? Macaroni Cheese from Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat =-.

  5. Amanda says:

    As above – just love that photo!
    And also keen to find recipes to help me use up the bottle of pomegranate molasses sitting in the pantry!
    There is only so much fesenjan that i can make my family eat!!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Australian garlic vs imported garlic – what’s the difference? =-.

  6. linda says:

    I’m so happy I got to taste it. It was delicious with a piece of bread. I should have asked for some to take home to accompany my coffee. Next time, please tell us the story of the thin moustache lebanese man, would love to see your impersonation.
    .-= linda´s last blog ..Malaysia Mondays – Ipoh, Part 2 =-.

  7. Gourmantic says:

    I tend to sit on the fence when it comes to eating Muhammara. Maybe it’s the texture that I don’t like very much. I’ve eaten it in Aleppo and Syrians are rather emphatic that it’s their local dish, so Wiki is right in this case.

    I think we need a post about that funny story, maybe with illustrations like the Lebanese bread post, after the impending delivery, of course :)
    .-= Gourmantic´s last blog ..Overnight Stay at Le Méridien Tahiti, Papeete =-.

  8. Cherine says:

    Hehe I can imagine the scene!!
    The muhamara looks lovely. It’s true we didn’t really eat it growing up. The first time I had muhamara it was here in Paris!
    Cherine´s last [type] ..Samkeh harra or spicy fish – another version

  9. Viviane says:

    I never heard of the dish till recently and by recently I mean a few days. My brother and his friend partnered up to open a restaurant the chef has Muhammara on the menu, I will be sure to try on the opening night a couple of days from now. Great pictures as always!
    Viviane´s last [type] ..Taste-Buds Face-off

  10. ahavotre says:

    almost always a touch of cumin is added..this dish originates in Haleb/Aleppo

  11. Customs officers, the gate, love it. Muhammara sounds flavour packed and yet another dish you have posted that I will have to try.

    Best of wishes to both you and Lainy for the new arrival due basically any minute now!

    Can’t wait to see what you end up cooking up in July, hopefully you won’t be too sleep deprived.
    sara (Belly Rumbles)´s last [type] ..Tokonoma

  12. Fouad says:

    Hi Bethany, trust me, it’s even funnier in person

    Hey Helen, well, he also pointed to a third customs officer at the tip of his tongue, which he said would immediately reject anything the first two officers had missed…

    Hi Joumana, I would LOVE to go to Syria one day. Can you believe I haven’t been? Greg is usually alright. His spins are quite respectful… Excellent chef. hehe Thanks for your lovely wishes

    Hiya Reemski, thanks! I hope you like it when you try it. It’s really delicious

    Hiya Amanda, thanks again. Oh, so many pomegranate molasses. Just use it as a salad dressing if you want to quickly get rid of it hehehe. Think of it like balsamic vinegar, sharp and sweet.

    Hi Linda. Hope you made use of that coffee. I’ll make sure I tell you the story with full impersonations. I do him pretty well, but in Lebanese it’s soo much better

    Hey Ms Gourmantic – I am yet to try authentic muhammara from Aleppo, so I’ll see what you mean about the texture when I do. As for the illustrations, my wife is the artist in the family and at the moment, she is in no mood to be trifled with hehehe. But sure, after the birth, more illustrations to come.

    Hi Chicho – isn’t it strange that we have these Middle Eastern foods for the first time after we leave lebanon?

    Marhaba Viviane. thanks for your kind words on my aspiring yet crap photography. did you try the muhammara? how did you like it? can you try making my recipe and giving me feedback as to which one is better? Please?

    Ahavotre – Aha! So cumin? I’ll give that a go next time. Thanks for the feedback :)

    Hiya Sara. Thanks so much for your lovely wishes. I’ll be sure to post some photos of my own Sara when she arrives. Watch this space for more updates, and yes, you must try making muhammara

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