Food prepared in Middle Eastern countries is classically high on taste and flavours. Even a simple dish is usually prepared with a long list of spices. Spices used in the Middle Eastern cuisines are grown locally or are sourced from the same trans-continental region that we know to be the Mid-Eastern region which comprises mainly of Egypt, North Africa, Tunisia, Israel, and the Saudi Arabian nations. This is one reason why it’s easy for people in the region to prepare spice blends that are pristinely fresh, resulting in dishes that turn out perfectly aromatic and delectable.
What Constitutes the Middle-Eastern Spice Blend?
A wide range of spice blends are used in Middle Eastern cooking according to the dish being prepared, the region it’s being prepared in and even according to individual tastes and preferences. The spice blend called Baharat or “Spice” in Arabic forms a blend of spices that in general acts as a base for most dishes. Baharat includes:
Flavours in the Middle-Eastern Spice Blend
These spices are blended together in varying amounts to obtain differently highlighted flavours including smoky, earthy, sweet, or spicy. In addition to these spices Za’atar, Sumac, Saffron, Mint, Fenugreek, and Aniseed may also be used depending on what type of dish is being prepared and where it has originated from.
How to Use Middle-Eastern Spice Blends?
The amazing thing about these Middle Eastern spice blends is that they are extremely versatile. You need not to use one spice blend for just one dish! The same blend can be used for meat-based or plant-based dishes and in different ways too.
For example, Baharat can be lightly fried in coconut oil, mixed in with onions, ginger, and garlic and then used as the flavouring for Lentil soup or sauce, the same can be used to prepare Chickpea stew or meat kebabs and even in salads. Frying the freshly ground spice mix helps release a strong burst of flavours into the seasoning oil, which blends beautifully into all the ingredients that are being cooked.
Another way to use a Middle Eastern spice blend is to use it as a marinade. While marinating is primarily done with meats and fish, it can also be adopted for vegetables such as Cauliflower, eggplant, or Zucchini. Spice blends together with yogurt, or oils or eggs are an excellent marinade and can make for a deeply flavoured dish.
Kebabs, Beef Ras el Hanout famous in Morocco, Harissa Chicken originating from Tunisia, Satay Chicken from West Africa, Cape Malay Lamb originating from South Africa and many more. Marinating ensures that the spice flavours penetrate the flesh of meats and fish. It is also known to tenderise the meat, prepping it before being cooked to perfection.
When spices are sourced locally and whole spices are used to prepare spice blends, stronger and richer flavours are a sure thing. Storing whole or blended spices for more than a few months can lower the flavour quotient quite a bit. So, at the end of the day, it is the freshness of the spices used to prepare the spice blends that result in truly aromatic and delectable dishes.
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