If you have been to a Middle Eastern theme party, you will notice an array of spiced spreads from hummus, eggplant spreads to tahini and more. Most Middle Eastern cuisine is by in large spiced with cayenne pepper, cumin, tumeric, chili peppers, and jalapeno peppers. Unlike my previous dips, making this schug does not require prior cooking or roasting. This Yemenite spicy relish, or schug, is basically made with raw chiles, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, or parsley. Schug is comprised of 2 different colors – either bright green or brick red, depending on which pepper you decide to use. I initially intended to use a bit of both but couldn’t find chili peppers as they were sold out by the time I went to look for them. Instead, I’ve used a red bell pepper and a bit of chili oil along with jalapeno pepper and garlic. Unless you have an iron stomach or a fire-proof palate, schug is not meant to be eaten in copious amounts. Its flavour, even in the smallest amount, can be very fiery from a miniscule amount of dried chiles to black pepper. While schug is spicy, it is one of the easiest dips to make. I find jalapeno peppers not to be as overwhelmingly pungent as chili peppers but you can use hotter chili peppers if you prefer.
Yemenites serve this spicy relish as an accompaniment for soup. Most people usually spread this Yemenite spicy relish on bread or pitas and eat it with the soup. Others like to add it to their pita and felafel. I like to add a bit of it to my salad or use it in a sandwich. Indeed, you can use it like pesto and mix a small amount of it with pasta and add a little olive oil. Or you can use it as a marinade for chicken. Since schug is easy to prepare, I generally make it in small quantities so the flavours stay fresh. You can remove the seeds and membranes of jalapeno and chili peppers for mildler effect but I leave them in so they give their heat to this spicy relish. Since cilantro gives plenty of flavour to the relish, I use them. If you don’t like cilantro, however, you can always substitute them for flat-leaf parsley instead or omit them entirely.
For this recipe, you will need:
- 2 jalapeno peppers quartered
- 1 small red bell pepper diced
- 4 cloves of garlic peeled
- 1/2 cup of cilantro sprigs or flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon of chili oil
- 2 to 4 teaspoons of water
- Pinch of salt
Combine jalapeno peppers, red bell pepper, garlic, chili oil, cilantro, 2 teaspoons of water and salt in a mini-food processor. Process ingredients into a smooth puree, stopping every few seconds to push mixture down so ingredients are grounded evenly. Add a bit more water if necessary.
Yields 1/3 to 1/2 cup of schug