I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of a baking anything this Easter break on account that it is just too damn hot. We’ll buy our Easter buns from the Bourke Street Bakery and they will taste all the better for not having slaved over a hot oven. I’ll just do all my Easter baking for the Greek orthodox Easter in early May when it will be nice and cool and just the time to eat lots of baked yeasted buns and chocolate-y things. Everyone knows the Greeks make the best Easter food anyway.
Having accepted the reality of a hot/ humid Easter, I’ve decided to just embrace it – sleep in, go to the beach or a bike ride and be spontaneous. ( As a family we’re not that good at being spontaneous but we can try). I’m not even going to plan that much food wise because I’m a bit over the humidity and the heat and more importantly cooking in the humidity and the heat. I’ll just mosey on down to the shops on Thursday, see what I can forage, and take it from there.
I might take advantage of the late summer red peppers though and make a big batch of muhammara, mainly because it’s delicious but having some dips on hand in the fridge is always good when you’re trying to be spontaneous. Throw together a few dips, some cheese, salad and bread and you have and instant feast.
I only discovered muhammara a few years ago when my sister gave me Greg and Lucy Malouf’s beautiful book on Lebanese and Syrian food – Saha. I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about middle-eastern food and I was surprised I’d never heard of it. Once you’ve tasted muhammara you’re unlikely to forget it though, it has the most gorgeous smoky, sweet and sour , nutty flavor that’s mysteriously exotic and seductively addictive. It goes equally well with a European cheese board as it does with a more middle- eastern spread.
Muhammara has now ousted my smokey baba ghanoush as a family favorite at family celebrations and gatherings. It’s also delicious eaten on toast for breakfast the next day. ( It’s a good idea to keep some muhammara aside if you want any for breakfast I find whatever I put out at parties gets completely devoured.) You can also mix equal amounts of labneh (drained yoghurt) with muhammara to make a yoghurt dip. I’ve never actually tried this – I love muhammara too much as it is and have never felt the desire to mess around with it.
Adapted from Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf
- 3 large red peppers
- 1 red bullet chilli, seeded scraped and chopped or half teaspoon of chilli flakes
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed with one teaspoon of salt
- 125g (4 ½ ounces) walnuts roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup lightly toasted fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- juice of ½ – 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, extra to serve
- Seed and cut red peppers into quarters. Drizzle olive oil over capsicum in baking tray and roast in 200C (400F) for 20 minutes or so until skin bubbles and darkens. (see note below)
- Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and leave them to steam until they are cool enough to handle and peel the skins off the peppers. Don’t rinse the peppers as this will make them soggy and wash away the roasted flavour.
- Roughly chop the peppers and place in a food processor with all the other ingredients except for olive oil. Pulse scrapping the sides of the bowl until you have a rough paste.
- With the processor running, add olive oil and process until thick and creamy.
- Allow to cool before refrigerating.
- Before serving check seasoning , drizzle with olive oil and serve with flat bread or crackers and cheese.
Covered in the refrigerator Muhammara keeps well for a week.
Note: You can roast your peppers whole over the flame on top of your stove or cut them in half and roast them under your grill, which is how I used to do them, but I’ve got a bit of a shonky grill now so I just find it easier to bung them in the oven. Real purists will always roast their peppers over an open flame for that smokey flavor. I roast my peppers in the oven till they blacken at the edges so they get enough of a caramelized, roasted flavor to satisfy me.
You can make this dip gluten-free by omitting the breadcrumbs and adding extra walnuts.