Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Muhammara/An Arabian Romesco

Muhammara. I didn't even know something like this existed until a week back. By that name, at least.

Quite simply, it consists of roasted red bell peppers blitzed with toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses and spices into a luscious spread that goes on toast or pitas. And as far as I know, no place in Madras makes it. Correction, I haven't been to Kefi at Taj Mount yet (maybe I will when I win the lottery or sell a kidney).

So I made it at home! Surprise, surprise. Substituting commenplace ingredients for the exotic. It won't taste the same, but we'll settle for pretty damn good, won't we?

Incidentally, everyone knows that Extra-virgin Olive oil is very healthy. Not if you are on a vague-ish diet, though. It has calories equal to that of butter or ghee or peanut oil. Good fat? Yes. But, it is still detrimental to your Summer-is-here diet, when consumed in large quantities.

Enter Muhammara. This is one of those rare Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern recipes that don't call for lashings of olive oil. You can argue that walnuts are calorie-laden, but they actually spike up your metabolism (negative calories) and you've got to get your Essential Fatty Acids from somewhere so your skin doesn't go all Phrynodermic(toad skin) on you!

Ignore the last two paragraphs. After polishing off half-a-batch of these cupcakes last night, I really have no right to deliver a righteous spiel on your nutritional requirements.

Let's just talk about the Muhammara. It tastes more sweet-spicy than hot-spicy, to my Indian palate. Pick up quboos at Sea Shell Cafeteria for ten rupees a piece or make some. Make the muhammara a day ahead so the flavours meld into each other. Whip up a batch of Tzatziki. Chips and dips, in a unbelievably healthy way.

Perfect spread for a game night. With the DLF IPL coming up (Chennai Super Kings-ku PERIYA WHISTLE podu!), you can rest assured that I'll be making plenty of nibbles to pick away at during commercials.



1/4 cup walnuts
1 tbsp tomato paste (I used ketchup)
1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 large red-bell pepper
1 tsp cumin
3 slices wheat bread
2 dried cayenne chilli pepper (vathal/dried red molaga)
salt to taste.


1)Roast the red peppers. I inserted a big fork and roasted it directly over a gas ring (a skewer would be the most obvious and the safer choice).

You can also brush it with olive oil and throw into the oven and roast until bits of it turn black. Let it cool a little, and then peel the blistered skin off. Chop it roughly and keep aside.

Or you can used jarred roasted red bell peppers.

2)Shred the bread into little bits. Lay them out and bake in the oven at 180 C (350 F) for 5-6 minutes. Keep aside.

3)Toast the walnuts, either in the oven or over a tawa/griddle.

4)Pulse the walnuts in the food processor/mixie until coarsely chopped. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice, sugar, roasted red pepper, dried cayenne and cumin. Blitz/Pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

Add the bread crumbs, and give it one final blitz. Taste the mix. Add some salt according to your preference.

Source: loosely adapted from Desert Candy.

Let it sit overnight in the refrigerator before using it. In a tightly closed jar, it'll keep for a week, at least, provided it doesn't leave the refrigerator.

Spread it on your toast for an early morning blast of Vitamin C and chilli. Do the aforementioned chips and dips. Make a pizza out of pita, with Muhammara as the sauce, zome zucchini, olives and feta cheese as the toppings. Or. Spread Muhmammara on pita/roti. Stuff it with salty french fries and grilled chicken. Roll it up like a shawarma. EAT.

Just do the last thing. The shawarma thing. And EAT.

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