There are zillion and one Xmas stylee recipes floating around at the minute, but I would like to take things is a slightly different direction here. All the way to Lebanon!!!
Here’s a little festive taste of the Southern Mediterranean, with plenty of warming spices and a really rich and luxurious dip. This Muhammara recipe is one of my all time favourite dips/ purees and it features in our cookbook. It is an ideal alternative to hummus at this time of year. I love hummus, but a change is always good!
Everyone is roasting cauliflower at the minute and I’m all for it. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the cauliflower and transforms it into something spectacular. Cauliflower is worthy of taking centre stage and in this recipe, with a few adornments, it shines. The spices and pomegranate molasses here really takes it up a few notches.
I would eat this as light lunch around the festive season, when you have maybe gone overboard the day before, and it is nice and easy to get together yet bursting with vibrant flavours.
Jane and I are not long back from Spain, where we had a magnificent time by the beaches and mountains of Murcia. Regular Beach House readers will know that its one of our favourite spots in the world and we return their regularly. You will also notice, by the beaming sunshine, that this dish was cooked in sunny Espana. My parents own a little house out there and I’ve lived and worked over there so its just like going home really. Our Spanish lingo is improving and we seem to do a load more socialising over there than we do in Wales, something to do with the free-flowing tapas and wine no doubt.
WHAT TO DO WITH POMEGRANATE MOLASSES?
I know that Pomegranate Molasses may not be top of your Christmas/shopping list this week, but it is a brilliant addition to your cupboards. It can be used to jazz up roasted roots and veggies, as it does in this recipe. It has a lovely sweet and sour flavour (think cranberries) and is high in sugar, meaning it adds to the caramelised effect we all know and love in roasted roots et al.
It can also be a wonderful sub for citrus in dressings and adds richness and depth to stews, dips (see below) and soups. Have a play with it! We also like it drizzled on bread or mixed with tahini to make a delicious spread for toast or even stir it into hot or fizzy water for a refreshing drink.
Pomegranate Molasses is something that is used so frequently in countries like Lebanon and Turkey, where Pomegranate trees are as frequent as oak trees are in Wales. It is an ideal way of preserving gluts of Pomegranates and turning them into something gorgeously versatile. It is basically pomegrantes juice cooked down, way down, until a sticky syrup is formed. You can buy it in Turkey in plastic water bottles by the side of the road. PM is tangy and not overly sweet, unless sugar has been added, check the bottle.
I will be looking at posting a few more festive fav recipes on the blog before the big day. I’ve just roasted a load of chestnuts and they need a home. Any ideas?
When cutting the cauliflower, don’t worry too much about small pieces that break off. These can be kept and used to thicken/ flavour soups, gravies and stews. They can also be sprinkled into salads.
Baharat is a spice mix from the Middle East. You may also like to use garam masala, ras el hanout etc. Spice mixes which include warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc are perfect.
If you do not have pomegranate molasses, use a squeeze of lemon juice and sweetener of your choice; brown rice syrup, maple syrup etc. This adds that gorgeous sweet and sour finish to the roasted cauliflower.
Fennel seeds are a great addition to many dishes and worth buying. They add a little explosion of that unmistakeable aniseed/ fennel flavour. I understand that they are not a regular ingredient and can be omitted, add a few more cumin seeds if you are fennel-less.
I know Christmas is a super busy time of year, you can buy pre-roasted red peppers in most shops. They are normally jarred and stored in oil. This will save a little time with the Muhammara.
The Bits – For 4
Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower
1 medium sized cauliflower (cut into 2 inch florets)
2 small onions (cut into 1/8’s)
1 head of garlic (top trimmed off to expose cloves)
1 teas fennel seeds
1 teas cumin seeds
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 teas baharat (or other spice mix)
2 teas pomegranate molasses
1/2 teas sea salt
Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) – Makes 1 small bowlful
2 red peppers
2 tbs olive oil
1 teas chilli flakes
2 slices wholemeal bread (crusts taken off, stale bread works best)
2 big handfuls walnuts
1 1/2 tbs pomegranate molasses (or 1/2 lemon juice)
1 teas unrefined brown sugar or sweetener of choice
1/2 teas smoked paprika
125g firm tofu
1/2 teas sea salt
1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)
Big glug extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch of bharat and smoked paprika
Preheat an oven on high, 240oC.
Start by roasting the peppers for the Muhammara. Rub oil over the peppers and place on a baking tray. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning them once, until they are slightly blackened and soft. Place in a bowl and cover. Once cooled, cut in half and remove the seeds, peeling off the skin. It should slip off nice and easy.
In a bowl, gently toss the cauliflower, onion and garlic in the oil, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and salt. Scatter over a baking tray and place in the hot oven. Roast for 12 minutes.
Turn all veggies over using a flat spatula (including the head of garlic), there should be some nice caramelised edges forming on the cauli and onions, this is definitely what we want. Even nice, dark charred edges are great for this recipe.
Now sprinkle over the baharat spice and drizzle over the pomegranate molasses, give the tray a little shake and pop back into the hot oven for 10 more minutes roasting, until dark golden and crispy.
While all the roasting is going on, you can make your Muhammara. Place the peppers and all other ingredients in a food processor and blitz until creamy. Check the seasoning and scoop into your most attractive bowl.
Warm a nice big shallow bowl or serving platter and scoop over your cauliflower. The garlic will be nice and soft, just pop the cloves out of their skins and scatter over the dish.
Sprinkle a little more Bharat over the cauliflower and finished the Muhammara with a drizzle of delicious olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a little freshly chopped parsley.
The Roasted Cauliflower and Muhammara will be delicious with a crisp, green salad and a bowl of olives. In Peace & Parsnips I recommend warm black olives and toasted pitta bread. Pickles of any variety will be a great addition. Now this is really starting to sound like a feast fit for the festive season!
Pomegranate certainly brightens up this time of year and I much prefer the flavour to cranberries, our festive staple for tanginess and that lovely festive touch of bright red. Pomegranate is packed with vitamins C and K and is also high in calcium and potassium. Pomegranate is also a good source of fibre and will help to keep our heart, digestive and immune system healthy. Perfect food to get us through the dark, winter days.