Pilpelchuma: The Condiment You Have Never Heard of and Can’t Live Without

IMG_7779Last week I made a middle eastern mess themed dinner with lots of small dishes.  My friend Ansell was coming over, back when we met he introduced me to the Cafe Mogador  in the East Village (been there since 1983 and still going strong).  They used to have a large silver appetizer platter filled with small bowls of tabbouleh, spiced carrots, hummus, warm pita and many other delicious that they would bring to the table for you to choose from.   It’s been years now since but I always remember thinking how reasonably priced they were, how delicious everything on the tray was and how you could easily make a dinner just from the small plates on this tray.

One of my favorite things on this mezzo tray were the spiced carrots.  We got them every time we went.  So when I was putting together this mezze meal I knew I had to make spiced carrots.

In Ottolenghi‘s instant classic cook book Jerusalem his recipe for spicy carrot salad calls for Pilpelchuma as a key ingredient.   Pilpel… what, you ask?  Pilpelchuma is:

An intense chile-and-garlic paste that is used by Jews from Tripoli as a basic seasoning for many dishes.  

My guests will attest to the fact that it tastes great on basically everything from Olives, to  the small pastries filled with feta, herbs and spinach I made and of course spicy carrots: basically it is kind of like Harissa with a lot of garlic in it.

Here’s the recipe, I promise to post the my version of the spicy carrot salad recipe post-haste!


Place 1 large ancho or pasilla chile in a small bowel, cover with very hot water, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and seed the chile, roughly chop and reserve.

In a cast iron frying pan add: 4 1/2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, 3 1/2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground caraway seeds. Roast over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the spice mixture become fragrant.

In a blender or food processor add: the chopped chile, 20 cloves of garlic, a scant teaspoon of salt. Process adding 1 tablespoon of unflavored oil like sunflower or organic canola.  Once the garlic and chili has formed a rustic paste add the ground spices.  With the blender running adding 4 more tablespoon of oil.  You may need more if using a blender.

Sterilize a jar by pouring boiling hot water into it and letting it sit for 1 minute, place the lid to the jar in the pan with the water as you bring it up to boil.

Spoon the paste into the jar and top it with more oil so the paste doesn’t dry out.

Use it freely and often and make Spicy Carrot Salad.

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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5 Responses to Pilpelchuma: The Condiment You Have Never Heard of and Can’t Live Without

  1. Pingback: Spicy Carrot Salad | Urbanfoodguy

  2. Thank you. I ran out of Trader Joes spice and I can find all of these ingredients in rural Mexico. It’s great on shrimp! I’ll give you credit on my blog.

  3. Pingback: Baja Confetti Shrimp And Pasta – What's for dinner, Doc?

  4. Pingback: Yotam Ottolenghi's & Sami Tamimi's Shakshuka - BFF with the Chef

    • urbanfoodguy says:

      I always make mine from scratch as the basic ingredients – olive oil,lemon juice,garlic,cumin,cayenne pepper are much easier to find than some pre made product. Good luck let me know how it turns out. Oh and once yo make it I fin it;last for months in the fridge you just may sometimes need to add a little more olive oil to the jar.

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