MU-HAM-MA-RA my love, a reinterpreted recipe from the war-torn & devastated land of SYRIA, previously known as the “culinary pearl of the middle-east and the levant”. May peace & harmony & genuine support come to you soon . . .
This dip or spread is usually made with a roasted red peppers paste (like a caviar or tapenade) and Aleppo pepper powder (a slightly sweet, slightly hot powder made of dried and crushed peppers with nuances of cumin and sun-dried tomato undertones) but I had none available, so just use my powdered spice mix, regular roasted red peppers and of course walnuts (but if you’re allergic, try replacing them with other nuts like pistachio, pine nuts and why not peanuts ?), fresh bread crumbs, some olive oil, some lemon, some garlic, cumin powder and pomegranate molasses (okay, if you don’t have any left or have never had any, substitute with some sugar mixed with honey and lemon juice or a touch of balsamic vinegar too).
I have had the pleasure of eating MUHAMMARA several times in different Syrian restaurants, some fancy, some regular and some sit-down, eat-quickly and/or take-out places. The best (and the only one that piqued my curiosity) is the version from the most normal and least expensive place of all.
It was DIFFERENT and particularly VIBRANT.
It may have been the sun-dried tomato undertones (I actually asked them if I was right and they had added some), the touch of onion (or probably green spring onion) and some fresh herbs (as I noticed the green specks of color).
This is what I’m trying to recreate here (tried & tested of course). The roasted red peppers can be homemade or in a jar and then well drained. Instead of Aleppo pepper, I combined various types of powders like sweet & smoked paprika, sumac, allspice, extra cumin and the unusual addition of sun-dried tomatoes. Pomegranate molasses (that I usually make in winter but ran out of) is a bitter-sweet-acidic syrup that can be replaced with honey or sugar and more lemon juice and a dash of balsamic vinegar. And the breadcrumbs aren’t dry and sandy, it’s fresh bread that you reduce to crumbs. Got it ?
I figured out that the winning combination, after the roasting, chopping, crushing, sprinkling, drizzling and puréeing, the result of the ratios are 1:1 in volume or 2:1 in weight; In other words, 2 cups of roasted red pepper purée for 2 cups of all the other ingredients mixed together.
Normally all of this is slightly chunky and then slightly smoothed and made in a mortar & pestle which is good for small amounts but this quantity is 4 times as much as mine can handle. Partly puréeing part of the mixture in a food processor (so it can be chunky) and most of it much more (for a smoother and creamier result) and then combining both is as close to the authentic texture you’ll get without exhausting yourselves.
You know I’m fond of Mediterranean dips (or my versions of these) like tzatziki (see recipe here), hummus (see recipe here), ktiipiti (see recipe here) and my version of guacamole (see recipe here) or my unusual black tarama (see recipe here), but I think that this just may be my new favorite.
Say it again :
MUHAMMARA . . . :)