from one generation to the next
Greg Malouf’s name is revered in Melbourne’s food scene. In the 1990s he made a name for himself fusing the flavours of his Lebanese birthright with the Irish heritage of O’Connell’s gastro pub in South Melbourne. It was under his tutelage that a generation of up coming young cooks adopted a shopping cart full of new flavours, and then spread the style across Melbourne.
Greg, with his former partner Lucy have published three coffee table format books, Saha, Saraban and Turquoise. Embracing the genres of armchair travel, insiders guides and cookbooks, Greg and Lucy take the reader on a culinary journey through Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Turkey.
For the month of October the Cookbook Guru is exploring the Maloufs’ Saha, a record of their journey to Greg’s ancestral home, Lebanon.
I love the aesthetic appeal of these books. They sit in a pile on my side table in the lounge room because they look good, but I welcome any excuse to open the pages and feast my eyes on the evocative photos of people, produce, the countryside and food.
The recipes in Saha have an exotic simplicity to them. Lemons, lamb and chickpeas, fresh herbs, garlic and tahini seem ubiquitous, but Malouf has an innate ability to raise flavours to another level with judicious aromatic seasonings, fresh salads and unexpected ingredients combinations.
The recipe for muhammara is quite simple to make thanks to the food processor. I charred the peppers while preparing dinner in the evening, then sealed them in a plastic airtight container to steam before chilling them overnight. I finished making the recipe the next morning.
Muhammara has an absolutely delicious pesto quality to it. The flavours are intense with the charred peppers and pomegranate molasses. The texture is thick and unctious. We ate it as a dip with crackers, as a topping on Malouf’s zucchini, mint and fetta fritters, and as an accompaniment for pan fried barramundi. I also enjoyed muhammara spread on my toast for breakfast.
I made a few necessary adjustments to the original recipe so it fitted within my dietary framework.
Red pepper, walnut and pomegranate dip
3 large red capsicums (bell peppers)
1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
125g shelled walnuts
1/3 cup dry gluten free breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon garlic infused oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of sugar
sea salt to taste
very generous grinding of black pepper
Thoroughly char the red peppers on the barbecue or over a gas jet on your cook top. Once done, seal the charred peppers in an airtight plastic container to steam and loosen the skins.
Remove the skins, seeds and white membranes. Avoid washing the peppers, simply use clean hands to scrape away any clinging seeds and skin.
In the food processor pulse the walnuts until roughly chopped. Add the flesh of the red peppers and the breadcrumbs and process until a rough paste.
Add the pomegranate molasses, sugar and lemon juice, then with the motor running, add the oils
Taste the paste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Process the paste until it’s a thick smooth paste.
Makes about 2 cups