I live in the Middle East. Whenever my mom comes to visit she freaks out over the new flavors. Middle East cuisine has its own distinct curries and flavors for vegetables, fish and meat. There aren’t thousands of varieties, but like Indian cuisine the flavor of a good spice blend depends on its source, blend and freshness.
Baharat is a new spice trend in the western world but its an old Arabian favorite. It’s essential if you want to make makluba or mafroum. If you haven’t tasted either of these dishes you haven’t lived.
Bahārāt (Arabic: بهارات) is just an Arabic word for spices and it’s usually used to season lamb, fish, chicken, beef, and soups. It can also be used as a condiment. I’ve been taught by my Arab-Israeli friends how to use it on chicken (season it very, very lightly – sprinkled on top before the oven), and it’s also essential in the Palestinian favorite maklooba (see recipe here). But if you are vegan you can sprinkle it on tofu or seitan. Why not?
Since I live in Jaffa, close to amazing spice shops, I just buy my own baharat.
If you don’t live near an Arabian market that will blend its own fresh spices, make your own. Because old spice mixes don’t work well for any kind of food. When it comes to spices, fresh is best.
There is different baharat according to where you live. The Turkish baharat includes mint, while in Tunisia, baharat is a mixture of dried rosebuds, pepper and ground cinnamon. In the Arab Gulf, loomi (dried black lime) and saffron may also be used in kebsa, also called Gulf baharat.
Since I live in the Levante, I am going to give you the baharat I know, one used by Arabs in Israel. I’d be happy to know how it’s different in places near by.
Here’s how you make your own baharat:
1 tbsp ground cardamom pods (the black seeds inside)
1 tbsp ground dry ginger
½ tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tbsp allspice*
*Like me, if you don’t have an allspice on hand, you can simply make your own by combining 2 parts cinnamon, one part ground nutmeg and one part ground cloves.
You can simply mix all together, and store in a dark airtight jar for use on all foods that need a little Middle Eastern kick. I prefer to buy some spices like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom – the dried spices, and grind them whole in my Vitamix machine (which also makes a killer ice-cream).
You can also use a mortar and pestle as shown in the video below.
The dry container that you use for grinding flour is the one you use for making baharat. Enjoy!