I'd made sure not to eat too much during the day, but I was still not able to do my order of 16 dishes justice. There were 8 cold dishes and 8 hot dishes. The waiter brought the cold ones first, along with pieces of toasted pita bread and promised to return with the warm dishes in 20 minutes. Well, he didn't come back for perhaps an hour and we were still dipping away, asking ourselves how on Earth would we be able to fit in 8 more dishes. The only dish I didn't go for was the one with prawns, there's no way I'll eat those things.
One of the dishes that I particularly enjoyed was "mhmhmhmhmh-a" as I managed to explain to my parents the next day. Some research corrected this into Muhammara, a mixture based on roasted peppers that hasn't been adopted in Bulgaria. After some clicking around, I settled on Ottolengi's version, original found here.
Sadly I wasn't able to get hold of Aleppo peppers as he recommends, but I did manage to get hold of pomegranate molasses. I've bought this before and tasted and hated and thrown away. Turns out, I just didn't know what to do with it. It's not to be eaten straight from the bottle.
Makes not enough, it's that tasty.
3 large red bell peppers
50 g large breadcrumbs, preferably panko
½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 clove of garlic
50 g walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
- Pre-heat the grill on medium-high. Wash the bell peppers and place on a tray.
- Bake the peppers under the grill until the skins blacken and the peppers go soft and collapse in. Turn to get them roasted evenly. This can take about an hour.
- In the meantime,mix together the breadcrumbs, molasses, cumin and chilli flakes together in a large bowl.
- Peel and press in the garlic. Chop and add the walnuts along with the olive oil and salt.
- When the peppers are roasted, place in a lidded, heat-proof dish and let cool for a few minutes, so they can be handled.
- Peel the pepper skin and remove stalks and seeds. Rinse the peppers if needed and pat dry with some kitchen tissue.
- Finely chop the peppers and stir into the walnut mixture.
Add more salt and molasses if needed.
- To make it easier for dipping, process to make smoother.
Next time I'll add more walnuts. I liked the texture when everything was chopped, but the flavours mixed a lot better once I'd run the muhammara through the processor. It wasn't the same as at the restaurant, but it was very yummy indeed. I hadn't realised that roasting the peppers would take so long in the oven. I'll use my pepper roaster next time, it's much quicker. Here's what a Bulgarian pepper roaster (чушкопек, chushkopek) looks like.