Not just India even the Middle is in love with its spices.
Cumin is native to Egypt, but is today used in many different cuisines, including Indian food recipes. Middle Eastern food uses cumin in a variety of ways to add aromatic and slightly bitter hints to dishes such as hummus, couscous, tahini and several meat dishes.
Za’atar is a herb, though it’s more commonly used to refer to a condiment made by combining the dried herb with sesame, dried sumac and thyme, as well as salt. Both the herb and the spice mixture are used to add nutty and tangy flavours to meat, vegetables and salads. It is also mixed with oil and used as a spread with bread or pita.
Sumac is an herb extracted from berries of the Rhus coriaria plant. The reddish-purple powder is extracted by drying and crushing the berries. It’s usually mixed with salt and used to add a sour, slightly lemony taste to dishes such as salads, kebabs and hummus. It also acts as a substitute to lemon in many Middle Eastern recipes.
Unlike in the West where nutmeg is primarily used in desserts, in the Middle East it’s used in savoury dishes, including meats, to impart an earthy flavour.
As in India, green cardamom is used widely in Middle Eastern cooking, to flavour everything from tea and coffee to curries, meat dishes and desserts. It’s also used as a mouth freshener.
Baharat is a spice mix made by finely grinding various spices such as cardamom, pepper, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg and paprika. Some of the ingredients may vary, but the mix usually contains seven spices.
Aniseed is one of the oldest spices in the world and is used to flavour drinks, desserts and candies across the Middle East. It also has many medicinal properties.
Now that you know what’s in the Middle Eastern spice box, how about using one of these interesting spices in your own kitchen? Make this warm salad of Grilled Veggies with Za’atar Vinaigrette for your next Sunday brunch. We promise it will be polished off in no time!
For the recipe, click here.
- Note: All the above-mentioned spices are available at ARQA spice counter at Foodhall.