Hemp Pecan Muhammara with Chili Lye Sticks – my take on a middle-eastern classic!
Once in a while, we have a barbecue with a group of friends. Sometimes at one of our homes, sometimes somewhere outside – for example on the banks of a river on a mild summer evening. (I miss these evenings now that winter has had a far too long hold on this area, at least for my tastes.)
For one of these barbecues I was looking for a dip or spread to prepare that I hadn’t done before. While thinking about it, I remembered that I had not too long ago seen a documentary about middle eastern cuisine. Among the many fascinating foods they presented there was also one spread that attracted my attention: Muhammara. I did some research on the details and found out that it is traditionally made from dried hot peppers, walnuts, olive oil, and breadcrumbs as main ingredients.
Well, even though a dip made from hot peppers seemed appealing to me, I thought about my friends and recalled that they usually disliked to spicy food. Too bad. I still wanted to do something in this direction and decided to swap hot pepper for bell pepper. To compensate, I added some extra spices such as vinegar, basil, and garlic. I also went for a combination of pecans and hemp instead of walnuts, giving rise to the nutty flavor of this “Hemp-Pecan Muhammara”.
However, I wasn’t done yet. Now I had a spread but nothing to go with it. Of course, I could just buy some bread from the supermarket but I was in the mood to have a go at something self-made. Being a big fan of pretzels I wondered if I could succeed at making some lye bread myself (making pretzels seemed a bit too ambitious).
As it turns out, it is a somewhat involved process: due to the use of yeast, the dough has to sit for quite some time in a warm place, then the formed bread needs to be shortly boiled in a lye mixture formed from baking soda (natron) before it was be transferred to the oven.
I even decided to put some extras into the dough such as chili bits and some vegan cheese and form sticks similar to small baguettes. These sticks in the end tasted very well, and were an awesome combination with the Hemp-Pecan Muhammara.Print
For the Hemp-Pecan Muhammara
- 4 fresh roasted red peppers
- 2–3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive extra virgin oil
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) tomato paste
- 1 cup (130 g) pecans coarsely chopped
- 1 Tbs maple syrup or agave
- 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup (30 g) basil
- 1/2 cup (100 g) hemp seeds for garnish
For the Chili Lye Sticks:
- 12 oz (350 g) flour
- 1/2 oz (15 g) fresh yeast
- 1 cur (200 ml) water
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch muscovado or natural cane sugar
- 3 Tbs (50 g) baking soda + 1 liter water
- 2–3 chills
- optional: 2.5 oz (75 g) vegan cheese
For the Hemp-Pecan Muhammara:
- Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C) and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roast the peppers for about 45 minutes.
- When the peppers are done, let them cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, then peel and seed the veggies.
- Combine peppers, garlic, tomato paste, oil, pecans, maple, vinegar, and basil in a food processor or blender. Pulse until very smooth.
- Transfer the dip to a bowl (don’t forget scraping down the sides on the blender), garnish with hemp seeds.
For the Chili Lye Sticks:
- Dissolve the yeast in a little bit of water, then combine with the flour, salt, sugar, and the remaining water in a bowl. Don’t use all of the water at once, add as required to knead a smooth dough. Let sit for 30-60 minutes at a warm place (oven at 120°F (50°C), for example).
- Fold in the chopped chili and cheese, if you use it. Form 6 sticks from the dough and let sit for another 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the lye mixture by dissolving the baking soda with one liter of water in a large saucepan.
- When the dough has set, preheat oven to 420°F (220°C). Bring the lye mixture to a boil. Be careful as it might be foaming heavily. Add the sticks to the boiling mixture for one minute. Flip them over after 30 seconds. Since the sticks are fairly soft, make sure you use a wide enough skimmer (or two) to add and remove the sticks. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for 17-22 minutes.