From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Muhamara – or a happy accident in an unhappy time

DSC_0937I have been making this slightly spicy dip for years.  My friends have always told me that I have got the recipe wrong.  But they still love it so I have never changed it very much.  The mouhamara you get in a restaurant is very heavy on the walnuts and to my taste a little dry — more like a paste than a dip.  I think I may have got the ingredients mixed up when I first made the dish, as I reverse the main taste from walnuts to peppers.  This makes it much juicier.  As with so many Arab dishes, there are many regional variations — not just from country to country but from one village to another.  One of the most common versions of the dish is Halabi — meaning it’s from Aleppo in Syria.  When I first made this many years ago, I would never have thought that that name — once so pregnant with all that is most precious in Arab history and culture — would become as scarred as my own home city, Beirut.

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Ingredients

2 large red peppers
100g of walnuts (roasted)
2 garlic cloves crushedDSC_0940
1 Small onion diced
1/2 tea spoon of cumin
1/4 tea spoon of black pepper
1/4 tea spoon paprika
1/4 tea spoon red pepper flakes
1 large spoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
2 tea spoons of pomegranate molasses (if not available use an extra half of a lemon)
1/2 tea spoon of salt
Mint Leaves for garnish
4 roasted walnuts for garnish
1 large spoon of olive oil extra for garnish

  • Cut the fresh peppers in halfIMG_4631 and remove the stems and the seeds. Place on a baking tray facing down. Brush with olive oil and put under the grill for about 8 minutes – or until the skin is charred and black.
  • Place the peppers in a clean plastic food bag, tie properly and leave aside for 15 minutes. Once the peppers are not too hot to handle remove all the black skin.
  • Place a small pan on a medium heat and roast the walnuts for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
  • In a food processor put all the ingredients, leaving the peppers out and some of the roasted walnuts for the garnish. Blend for a few minutes then add the peppers and blend for an extra few minutes until the dip has a rough texture.
  • Serve in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with mint leaves and roasted walnuts. Serve chilled with Lebanese flat bread. Great with lamb as a side dish.
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