June 2010

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Mhammarah, literally means reddened, in this context, it refers to mixing hot red chillies with walnuts. Pomegranate syrup is added to sooth down the fiery effect of the chillies. Suitable for vegans and everybody else, this recipe is very basic and works well as an appetiser (mezza) before barbecues, while hanging around and sipping chilled drinks like beer or white wine. The other good thing about this dip is that you can prepare it well ahead of time, which in fact helps the flavours to develop.

Traditionally walnuts are the main ingredients, but you can vary by substituting a quarter of the quantity with pine nuts.

Serves 4


  • 100 g / 4oz walnuts.
  • 1 or 2 red hot chillies (depending how hot you prefer it) finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Grind the walnuts to a paste or until relatively fine (if you like a bit of crunchiness), then tip into the serving bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with the spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Keep it in the fridge if you are not eating immediately.
  3. Serve with Lebanese bread, fresh crusty bread also goes well too.

It looks like cream cheese but in fact is strained yoghurt, the better quality the yoghurt, the better taste you get. Although Labneh is one of the traditional Lebanese breakfast dishes, it is becoming more and more popular as part of the mezza. When I took my visiting Irish friends to a Lebanese restaurant they liked it so much that they asked for the recipe which gave me the idea to include it in this section. It is very easy to make and not time consuming at all, though you need to prepare it the night before.

Serves 4-6


  • 500g/ 1lb 2oz tub of good quality yoghurt (usually called Greek Yoghurt)
  • About 1tsp salt
  • 2 large fat cloves of garlic.
  • Leaves of 1 small sprig of mint. Alternatively ½ tsp of dried mint
  • 1 fat black olive for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle.

You also need a cotton bag (such as a white pillowcase) in order to drain the mixture overnight


  1. Mix yoghurt with salt then tip it into the bag. Tie the bag and hang over a bowl or on the tap over the sink, so all the excess liquid is drained which usually takes about 12 hours. You should end up with the consistency of cream cheese.
  2. Transfer the strained yoghurt into a bowl scrapping off all the sticky bits. It should be smooth and spreadable, like a clotted cream. If you think it is too stiff add a little water, taste and adjust if necessary. Keep in the fridge
  3. When you are ready to serve, peel and smash the garlic to a paste then mix with the labneh adding the dried mint if you prefer. Transfer to a serving dish. Decorate with the black olive in the middle, if using the fresh mint chop it up and sprinkle over, finish off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Serve with Lebanese bread, try it also toasted.