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Muhammara – Capsicum and Pomegranate Dip

Pomegranate season brings out the Middle Eastern food lover in me – not hard as this is one of my favourite cuisines. Capsicum (also in season) and pomegranate juice are the key ingredients in this dip/sauce/spread. I made it this weekend to take to a party as a dip, but it is also good as a sauce for chicken, tofu, or (specially yum) on lentil patties. Or as a spread on bread or in a wrap.

The traditional recipe calls for pomegranate molasses, which you can make by boiling down  pomegranate juice with sugar and a little vinegar to make a thick syrup. But it seems a pity to boil out all that wonderful vitamin C in the pomegranate juice, so this version uses the juice straight.

The recipe also calls for breadcrumbs. Since you want the finished dip to be smooth textured, this needs wholemeal or rye bread, not seedy or wholegrain bread.

Otherwise, it is all ingredients you’re likely to have on hand, and, although there’s a few processes to it, it can be put together in 15 minutes or so.

You need 1/3 cup pomegranate juice, which will be the juice of one large pomegranate. Put the arils (seeds) through the blender and strain off the juice.

Put one thick slice of bread (enough to make about 2/3 cup breadcrumbs) in the blender and pour over the pomegranate juice. Let it soak in while you assemble the rest.

Roast 2 capsicums over an open flame until charred. I use a cake rack over the gas flame set fairly low, and turn the capsicums with tongs until the skin is charred all over. It takes about 10 minutes. Put in a lidded container and let them cool slightly in their own steam. Then it will be easy to just rub off the outer charred layer.

Add the flesh (minus seeds) to the blender.

Meanwhile, in a dry pan, lightly toast about 1/3 cup nuts. The traditional recipe calls for walnuts, but I’ve substituted cashews and pecans successfully. Add them to the blender, along with in 2 cloves of garlic, a scant teaspoon of cumin powder, a chili (or a little chili powder), a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Blend until very smooth, then, very gradually with the blender running, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. You are looking for it to emulsify like mayonnaise does. Taste and adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste.

It will thicken up a little in the fridge, and it is even better the next day after the flavours have mingled a little.

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