This recipe for ‘mujdei’ definitely puts Romania’s cooking style next to the more famous Middle Eastern, Oriental and Mediterranean cuisines.
Garlic has been known since times immemorial for its medicinal benefits, and one way or another, you will find it being used from ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, Jewish and European cuisine, to modern times.
Traditionally ‘mujdei’ has a very simple recipe: garlic, salt and water. We make a fine paste by crushing the garlic with salt in a pestle and mortar, then we add water to taste. It is more like a thin sauce for pouring over food. In different regions of the country, people add sour cream, tomatoes, vinegar, breadcrumbs, a squeeze of lemon or a teaspoon of honey. It all depends on where you are in the country.
For example, due to the Greek influences in the south, the ’mujdei’ is made with sour cream, while in the north, due to the Germanic heritage, it is made by adding a bit of honey to the initial paste.
There is a recipe during Lent that only uses peanuts, garlic, salt and water – it is because oil, sour cream or other traditional additions were not considered pure. Taking inspiration from all these regions of Romania, I am making my own version of ‘mujdei’, thick and nutty, ideal for dipping or pasting meat before roasting.
This is how you make 250g:
Method: put everything in a food processor and blend together.
You can add more ground almonds to make it thicker, if you’d like, or you can use a set yogurt. Use it as a dip with olives or fritters, or in small dollops on top of steak, koftas, steamed veggies or full English.