muhammara with pomegranate molasses
Muhammara is a deliciously crunchy dish much loved in the eastern Mediterranean. It’s a celebration of red peppers and walnuts with seriously tangy depth from Zejd’s pomegranate molasses. There are many variations of this recipe, but we’ve based ours on one from Claudia Roden’s cookbook The Med. While this version uses a store cupboard jar of red piquillo peppers, it’s just as easy to make using ruby red Spanish peppers. However, it’s the pomegranate molasses which matters.
In the interest of research, we experimented with a supermarket variety of pomegranate molasses. As it had added sugar, making for a cheaper product, the dish lacked the much needed acidity. Since red peppers are naturally sweet, tartness is key. Zejd’s pomegranate molasses is made from a sour variety of pomegranates, used for cooking rather than eating. There’s no added sugar, nor flavouring, and when the juice is reduced it remains tart. This is what you need to offset the sweetness of the peppers. Without it, muhammara becomes cloying and rather unappetising.
Using a jar of red peppers means the dish is quickly put together. However, roasting a glut of red peppers with some cloves of garlic and Zejd’s extra virgin olive oil is easily done in the oven. You can peel the blackened skin if you like, but in the interest of speed we don’t bother. To avoid losing the texture, pulse carefully in the food processor. Keep the liquid to a minimum so that it doesn’t become too slushy. It’s easily done by hand if you’d prefer not to use a machine.
320g jar red piquillo peppers
3 large Spanish red peppers, seeded, quartered and brushed with a tablespoon of Zejd’s EVOO baked in a hot oven (200 degrees C) for 25 minutes until the skin has begun to char
100g walnut halves, lightly toasted in the oven and chopped
1 slice of wholemeal bread (30g) crusts removed and broken into pieces
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 – 2 tbsp Zejd’s pomegranate molasses (taste and add depending on the sweetness of the peppers)
juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 tbsp Zejd extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or other hot chilli pepper)
1/2 tsp cumin, seeds lightly toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
salt to taste
- Drain the peppers well using a sieve, as you don’t want extra liquid. If roasting red peppers, to save time use the whole pepper skin and all.
- Add the peppers to a food processor along with all the remaining ingredients.
- Pulse until you get the desired texture, taste and add more pomegranate molasses or salt if need be.
- Spread the muhammara in a serving dish, and drizzle a bit of pomegranate molasses over the top in a zig zag.
If you can find Lebanese bread, try splitting them and then cutting them into segments. Bake in a hot over, 200 degrees, for 8 minutes or so until lightly golden. They become like “melba toast” and are great for dipping into muhammara. You could always use little gem lettuce leaves or radicchio as a refreshing dipping tool!