First and Foremost, Muhamara is an Aleppian recipe born and bred in Aleppo.
The recipe is available in many versions with variations brought in by alleged Foodies or Chefs who in fact, were not born or lived in Aleppo, and they came to know the recipe as passed along with whomever they have met in or out of Aleppo.
It does not have to work this way. I like Chinese Spring Rolls but I will be dammed if I know the authentic version!
What I know is from trying the Spring Rolls in various places and restaurants.
Today Spring Rolls have taken their own food road and whether it is faithful to the original authentic version or is a Chinese dish at all is a question mark?
How Muhamara came into being is not determined. Whether it is the Armenian cuisine or Persian or Turkish had an influence on the Aleppian recipe is probably true.
Aleppo is not known for it’s chilli hot food but for it’s spicy rendition of dishes and thus Muhamara stands out in the culinary offering of the place.
Any recipe in any country in the world is born using the ingredients available at hand. In this case 3 ingredients are the base to build the recipe:
- Red Peppers
- Pomegranate Molasses
Substituting the main ingredient of Aleppo Peppers changes the whole taste of Muhamara. Red Peppers are available world wide in a huge variety of flavours and they are definitely not the same flavour.
- Aleppo Red Peppers (sun dried) – 200g
- Walnuts – 100g
- Pomegranate Molasses – 75ml
- Kaak – 100g
- Olive Oil – 75ml
- Cumin – 20g
- Sugar – 20g
- Salt – Chef’s measure
Please no blender! Chop the ingredients and finish in a pestle and mortar. The consistency should not be smooth but must leave some minimal crunch for the palate. Add Olive oil as much as it takes without turning the mix into a soup consistency.
The spread should be able to hold up if gently piled and no oil residue should show on the serving dish. Muhamara is to rest for 24hrs where all the ingredient’s flavors come together.
You may ask where the Onions – Garlic – other type of nuts…etc have gone. Well, there is no such ingredients in the original recipe as very simply with the use of the Aleppo Peppers all the spicy flavors come to life.
N.B. Lemon Juice. There is a debate as to whether Lemon Juice should be added or not. Some wannabe Chefs seems to think that the addition of Lemon juice helps either the flavor or add to the tanginess of Muhamara.
They cannot be further from the truth, I will reveal why sometimes you have to add Lemon Juice: It is for the color!
Lemon juice would lighten up the red pepper paste as in case the Aleppo peppers are ripe, they have a tendency of going dark in color or if the drying is made in a humid environment, the Peppers would darken as well. The solution is not to add coloring (heaven forbids) or powder chilli but simply Lemon juice (Chef’s measure) to brighten up the dish. Please do be aware that too much Lemon juice would shift the red color of the Peppers to orange which is not the objective.
Mamuniyeh is a typical and old breakfast recipe born and bred in Aleppo.
It is still one of my favourites and the recipe is pretty straight forward.
It is a Semolina mix with water and sugar.
Now how you do it is another story.
Some people use Samneh (Ghee)= Wrong
Some people use Butter= Wrong
Some people use Milk instead of water= Wrong
You might as well do the German recipe for Grießbrei!
The way we eat at my parents house is as follows:
Scooped in a shallow plate with a heavy serving of Kaymak. On top of the Kaymak, peeled Pistachios toasted in Samneh or Butter dress up the dish. A side plate of Jebneh M’shalshleh (Aleppo String Cheese) which has been washed in warm water to reduce the salt content and some fresh Arabic bread.
Mmmm. I know what I am having tommorrow.
OK. There is no Samneh Hamawieh or Kaymak.
I do my own Kaymak.
Kaymak: Boil full fat milk and reduce heat to a simmer. Scoop out the top and ice shock and continue doing so until you have enough Kaymak or the Milk runs out of fat.
Alternatively, Mix cream with the Milk in equal proportions and boil. Transpose into a Bain Marie and simmer.
Lift from Bain Marie and Ice shock and fridge. Next day scoop out the top and you have Kaymak.
Ohhhh. I forgot the Cinnamon powder on top of the Pistachios and Kaymak!
And yes, I know that I did not explain how to cook Mamuniyeh and I will not. If you are true Aleppian with the Aleppo Pustula, then you would understand!
N.B. Why some people add Samneh or Butter when toasting the Mamuniyeh which is totally wrong.
This has to do with the scarce availability of Kaymak in times went by, with the proviso of the Kaymak high cost. They have resorted to add the flavour from Samneh or butter and unfortunately, this changes the taste of Mamuniyeh and I for one will never have it with Samneh or Butter. Also you should note that I am toasting my pistachios in Samneh or Butter and this adds to the flavour as it is on the surface of the dish versus being included in the cooking per se.
Kaymak or Bust