Whenever I am looking for a showstopping dip I always turn to the recipe collection of Kurma Dasa. Kurma is an Australian vegetarian chef I met many years ago while taking some cooking classes at The Essential Ingredient in Melbourne Australia. I immediately became intoxicated with the incredible flavor of his food, and the simplicity of his cooking style. Who can forget the Creamy Raw Vegan Cashew Dip.
Most of Kurma’s cooking is inspired by the flavors of India. However, every once and a while he diverts to explore the culinary delights of other exotic regions. This exquisite muhammara recipe – (or Syrian roasted red pepper and walnut dip), is a shining example of his awesome recipes that will keep you rustling through his books screaming for more inspiration! This recipe is absolutely phenomenal, and bursting with a unique flavor that is memorable. If you are looking for a vegan dip that is unlike any other -- this is the one!
This recipe marked my first introduction to pomegranate molasses, which is a thick viscous ruby syrup made from the concentrated juice of tart pomegranates. It has a tangy, fruity flavor that is quite particular, and is predominantly used in Middle Eastern dishes. You can find this at exotic grocers or Middle Eastern food stores. It is sometimes labelled as pomegranate syrup. Just make sure it is made from 100% pomegranate juice. I must admit that the minute I tasted this gorgeous sweet dip on a slice of toasted ciabatta, it was love at first bite; and I have been rejoicing over this heavenly muhammara recipe ever since. I now keep a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my pantry so that I can wow my dinner guests with a taste sensation that is complex and vibrant.
I have been whipping up this sensational dip to rave reviews for over ten years, and I hope it will become a staple in your "delectable dip" repertoire, just as it has in mine. Just a tip about the addition of the bread: add it gradually to achieve the desired consistency. Because gluten free bread can absorb a lot of moisture, if you add too much at the beginning, you can end up with a dip that is a bit too sticky, and then you are forced to add in more liquids that can really throw off the flavor balance. I find that starting with 1/2 cup of crumbed bread (which is about 1 slice) is usually perfect. But depending on how large your peppers are, you might find that you need a bit more. Don’t go from one to two slices immediately. Just add in a little at a time in order to achieve your perfect blend.
This roasted red pepper and walnut dip that originates in Syria, is also known as “spicy hot pepper dip”. It is served in various incantations all over Armenia, Turkey and Lebanon. There are a lot of variations containing cumin, dried hot pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and quantity variations of the lemon juice, garlic, chile and molasses. These variations yield pastes with quite different personalities. Kurma’s version is a little more unusual in that it doesn’t contain cumin. Instead, he chooses to use asafoetida powder, which might also be unfamiliar to you. This is a fantastic ground vegetable powder used as a flavor enhancer in Southern Indian cuisine. It tastes like strong onions and can be found in Indian grocers or exotic food stores. It is as cheap as chips, and a tiny container will last you for ages. Kurma uses it in a lot of his cooking. It's also great for boosting the flavor of soups, stews and stir-fries.
His version of muhammara is also devoid of that really spicy kick, which is what I like about the personality of this blend. If you prefer a bit more heat in order to balance out the sweetness and tartness of the pomegranates, feel free to add in some more chopped red chile. You also might want to add in a tiny clove of garlic and some more lemon juice. But I really like this mild blend that allows the pomegranates to have their moment. I am also not a fan of really spicy food. When my tongue is burning my taste buds can’t navigate their way around the natural flavors of the fruits and vegetables. But some of you might prefer a spicy balance of notes.
This dip is traditionally served spread on crusty bread or toast, but tastes fantastic with raw vegetable sticks. It also makes a wonderful paste spread on kebabs, burgers, and wraps; or even a rich sweet pasta sauce if thinned out with some olive oil. Either way, this recipe is a winner. It is just absolutely delicious.