Muhammara is a spicy Levantine dip made with bell peppers, stale bread, walnuts and olive oil, and one of my go-to “waste not” recipes whenever I have an old capsicum that needs using up. It’s often spiced with one of my favourite ingredients, aleppo pepper, or pul biber as it’s known in Turkey, which was traditionally grown in Syria and traded from Aleppo, which lies on the famous Silk Road spice route. The dried pepper flakes are bright ruby-red, sweet and salty, and are made from mild halaby peppers.
To prepare a pepper with minimal waste, rather than cut out the stalk, push it into the pepper, then cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and white pith. Trim off any edible flesh, then compost everything else.
Store peppers whole in the bottom of the fridge, or freeze raw in slices or in ice cubes.
Muhammara is like a spicy romesco sauce made with walnuts rather than almonds. Like its Spanish counterpart, it makes a great accompaniment to barbecued spring onions or calçots and all kinds of grilled meat, fish and vegetables. It also doubles up as a wonderful dip for bread. Once made, it will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Prep 10 min
Cook 15 min
70g broken walnut pieces
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, stalk, seeds and pith removed, cut into small dice
20g stale bread, wholemeal for preference, torn into small chunks
2 tsp aleppo pepper (AKA pul biber), or mild chilli flakes
½ tsp chilli flakes
1½ tsp paprika
2 tsp white-wine vinegar, or lemon juice
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
To serve (optional)
Sumac, mint leaves, extra pomegranate molasses, flatbread
Toast the broken walnut halves in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about five minutes, until they darken and turn aromatic. Put a few walnuts to one side and tip the rest into a food processor.
Put the extra-virgin olive oil and diced pepper in the hot pan, and saute for five minutes, until it begins to caramelise and soften; adjust the heat to prevent the oil from smoking.
Tip the peppers and oil into the food processor, add the stale bread, aleppo pepper, hot chilli flakes, paprika, vinegar and pomegranate molasses, then stir in 50-100ml cold water, to loosen. Pulse-blend to an even but still chunky consistency, then decant into a bowl and serve garnished with the reserved walnuts, a teaspoon of sumac, some fresh mint leaves and extra pomegranate molasses.