East side story

Come in hummus your time´s up, there´s a new boat to push out from across the pond and its called Muhammara!!!!
Have you ever tried muhammara? It’s a spicy pepper dip that originated from Aleppo, Syria, with one of the key ingredients being Aleppo chili flakes!
Technically speaking this is the East Algarve but with a bit of artistic licence it can be Algarvian Levant.So with my new found muhammara I decided to put together a simple mid-week middle eastern /Levantine supper.Most of the ingredients which I needed, Za´atar, sumac etc, are available here, with the exception of the Aleppo chili flakes, so I substituted with piri piri flakes which have much more heat and so I accordingly reduced the quantity.I substituted roasting the peppers for a jar of piquillo peppers which brought it closer to home and gave it a sweeter and smokier flavour.The feature of my dish was Middle Eastern style chicken skewers with an Iranian dip on the side, served with Pan cooked yoghurt flatbreads.Think of muhammara as a mix of savoury, sweet, and smoky with a little spice.
First comes lemon for acidity,then walnuts for bite, cumin for smokiness, Aleppo chili flakes for heat, pomegranate molasses for sweetness and depth of flavour, bread crumbs for texture, olive oil for body, and salt for overall flavour.This classic Levantine dip can be made in a food processor, but it will lose some of its lovely texture, so if you are looking for a more textured dip I'd use a pestle and mortar,. Muhammara keeps well and even improves after a day in the fridge; just don't serve it fridge-cold. Serves four as a dip or side dish.Easy to make, BIG  flavour, smoky, spicy, subtly sweet, hearty,
healthy and delicious.I defy anyone not to love this.

Muhammara (serves 4)
3 red bell peppers (360 g) or a jar of piquillo peppers
2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml)home made pomegranate molasses

3 Tbsp (15 g) bread crumbs
11/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
2 tsp dried Aleppo chilli flakes,  (
or piri piri flake and reduce to 1 tsp)
1 clove garlic (3 g), minced 

1/2 cup (60 g) raw walnuts, finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil 

1/2 Tbsp (5 ml) lemon juice
Flor de sal
Heat oven to 450 degrees F (232 C) and place whole bell peppers, (if using) directly on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until blackened on the outside. Cover with foil to let steam and cool for 10 minutes. Then peel away core, seeds, and skins and set aside.
To a food processor, add pomegranate molasses, bread crumbs, cumin, salt, chili flakes, garlic, walnuts, olive oil, and lemon juice and pulse (instead of blend) to combine. Then add roasted peppers and pulse a few more times to combine. I think a little texture is nice in this dip instead of a purée.Taste and adjust flavour as needed, adding more lemon for acidity, garlic for "zing," chili flakes for spice, pomegranate molasses for sweetness / depth of flavor, sea salt for saltiness, or cumin for smokiness.
Serve with fresh Pan cooked yoghurt flatbreads. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Let come to room temperature before enjoying - I like it warm.

Middle eastern Chicken Skewers with Za´atar and Sumac
Serves 2
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, each breast cut lengthways into 4 pieces
1 red onion cut into wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Za´atar
1 tbsp sumac
In a mixing bowl toss together all the ingredients and leave to marinade until you are ready to use. Thread the chicken portions and onion wedges onto 4 metal skewers
and grill on high for 10- 15 minutes turning.Serve with muhammara and yoghurt flatbreads.


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