Inspiration for meal ideas can often come from the shelves of cookbooks we have, waiting patiently on our shelves to be noticed, thumbed and covered in sticky ingredients. This inspiration was from a cookbook launch party, held in Battersea, London at the Food Blogger Connect conference.
I’ve long had a love affair with Middle Eastern food. It rarely disappoints and the ease with which you can create quite dramatic flavours always amazes me. Do you go through phases with food? I do. Sometimes the slowly simmered foods from India are my kitchen rave. Other times it may be avocado and cilantro (coriander) that line my windowsills which mingle and merge with spritely jalapeños and a conveyor belt of freshly made corn tortillas. Right now, as the sun shines with close to Arabic effort, I am feasting on the delights of the Lebanon.
Aubergines (eggplant) are being roasted in the oven, alongside plump red peppers doused in oil. Pinenuts are releasing fragrant oils from gentle toasting. Supermarkets are being plundered for the ruby jewels of the pomegranate and soy yogurt is being transformed into a lemony, garlicky cool white dip. You can almost hear the hypnotic, rhythmic music curling in the air with the scent of smokey paprika. Where’s my jangly coin, belly dancing belt?
Once the eggplant/aubergine was roasted and delicious (you know how it goes all silky..ooh, I love that) I spooned over rich red muhammara sauce.
Here is the recipe, I adapted from Bethany Kehdy’s blog. The girl who reminded me of the food of the Lebanon.
Her book is out now. The Jewelled Kitchen The book is packed with recipes (it is not a vegan cookbook) the most gorgeous photography by Sarka Babicka. I am in awe of her outstanding talent.
This recipe is gluten free and totally vegan.
red muhammara sauce
1/2 cup toasted almond flour (to sub for bread crumbs)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup walnuts (I’ve also made a toasted pine nut and walnut combo 1/4 cup of each..yum!)
2 bell peppers, charred with seeds and skins removed. Use any of the juice they produce.
30 ml pomegranate molasses (didn’t have so I used 1 tsp of sumac for the touch of tartness)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil (or walnut oil for a richer flavour)
a strong girl squeeze of fresh lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chill powder or cayenne
salt and fresh black pepper to taste
You can go messing around with putting the charred red peppers into a plastic bag to make them sweat and so easier to peel away the skin, do this if you are in a hurry (don’t hurry) or just remove from the oven and wait for it to cool down. It will be easy to peel.
Put all the ingredients into a small blender and blend until smooth. Test for seasoning. If it is ok then put in an appropriate serving dish and scatter with crushed walnuts or toasted almonds.
Do a few hip rolls and a shimmy or two, to build up an appetite..and then feast.