Her newest cookbook is called Around the Table, but for Melbourne-based cook and author Julia Busuttil Nishimura, it’s food from around the world that lends endless inspiration.

As in her earlier titles, Ostro and A Year of Simple Family Food, Busuttil Nishimura’s third collection of recipes explores regions she’s personally connected to – including Italy, Malta and Japan – with tips you can bring to your own table.

Here, she shares one of her favourite recipes, muhammara – a vibrant and spicy Syrian dip of roasted red capsicum and walnuts. It’s a winner to start a dinner party or standing on its own with fresh, simple ingredients.

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“I like to serve muhammara as part of a platter with raw vegetables, labneh and breads, but it is also a great accompaniment to roast lamb or chicken, or even as a sandwich spread,” Busuttil Nishimura says in Around the Table.

“If you are short on time you can buy a jar of roasted red capsicums and use them instead of roasting your own, although there is something rather enjoyable about doing it yourself,” she says.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's spicy Syrian muhammara
Serves 4
Preparation time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:
3 red capsicums, whole
100g natural walnuts, whole
50g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
1 garlic clove, optional
Juice of 1 lemon
1–2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, plus extra to serve
Olive oil

To serve:
Labneh
Selection of raw vegetables
Breads of your choice

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Using tongs, grill the capsicums over an open flame for around 25–30 minutes or until blackened all over, turning as needed. Alternatively, place the capsicums on a tray lined with baking paper and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, until they are soft and blackened all over. Both methods yield a great result.

Arrange the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8–10 minutes.

Transfer the capsicums to a mesh strainer with a bowl underneath and cover with a plate or tray to allow them to steam a little between the flesh and the skin. When cool enough to handle, peel the capsicums and discard the skin, seeds and membrane.

Place the capsicum in the bowl of a food processor with 75g of the toasted walnuts, plus breadcrumbs, Aleppo pepper and garlic, if using. Pulse until you have a rough paste.

Transfer to a bowl and add the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and enough olive oil until you have a thick but spoonable consistency. Season to taste.

Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and scatter them over the top, along with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Serve with labneh and your choice of raw vegetables and breads.

This is an edited extract from Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, with photography by Armelle Habib. Published by Plum, it retails for $44.99.
@juliaostro