More Lebanese Recipes-Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (Muhammara)
A Delicious Dip to Add to Your Lebanese recipes
This red pepper (capsicum) and walnut dip is less well known than hummus, but it will bring honour to any mezze (Arabic small dishes) spread it is included in. I had been living in the Middle East for several years before I first tasted it, and it was so good that I immediately forced my friend to share the recipe with me. Apparently it is a very traditional dish, so I am not sure why we don't see it more often.
It always strikes me that many of my favourite dishes from Lebanese cuisine, but also form other countries are vegetarian (or even in this case vegan). I don't think this is, on purpose, as far as I know Middle Eastern people enjoy meat more than Europeans or Americans, and it is rare to find an Arab who is vegetarian either for health reasons or out of concern for animal welfare. I think the lack of meat in many traditional recipes stems from the fact that they originated with poor people, until the advent of intensive farming, meat was a luxury for a large section of the population leading to the invention of many meat free dishes. I've often found these to be much tastier than dishes that are vegetarian "on purpose", i.e. when food that would normally be made with meat is made suitable for vegetarians by using a substitute. In my experience a casual dinner with friends based on Lebanese mezze is perfect if some of them don't eat meat. You just serve the dishes that would traditionally be served in a Middle Eastern country and it just so happens that many of them are suitable. You can include a couple of meaty dishes, which your vegetarian friends will avoid, but most of the spread will be ok for them, they will not feel left out, and your other friends will not feel deprived or think that the food you served was "substandard" because you had to adapt it.
Muhammara comes from the Arabic word for red "ahmar" and roughly translated it means something like "the reddened one". It adds a nice splash of colour to the mezze spread. The recipe is very easy, assuming of-course that you have a blender or a food processor. The only part that I don't like is roasting and peeling the pepper, this bit is somewhat messy, but it is well -worth it. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes to prepare.
- 4 red peppers
- 50g (2oz) walnuts
- 1 thick slice white bread without crusts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 red chilli
- lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
- 75ml good olive oil
Red Pepper Dip Method
1. Preheat the oven to highest setting, cook the peppers on the top shelf and the walnuts underneath, keep an eye on the walnuts since they can burn easily.
2. Take the peppers out, put in a bowl and cover with clingfilm, allow them to cool, the "sweating" should make the skin come off easily. Peel and deseed the peppers.
3. Put the peppers, nuts, cumin, bread and garlic in a blender or food processor and blend to a puree. Season with salt and add half the lemon juice. Then add the olive oil slowly while the still processing the mixture,It should emulsify. Taste and add more salt/lemon juice if it needs it.
4. Serve with warm flat breads or pita breads, you could garnish with coriander or mint or walnut halves.