Just like the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern cuisine also shares similarities with North Indian cuisine. Common to both is the love of beans and lentils, and an abundance of spice that gives them life. Gastronomically, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon are the three countries that have had the most influence on this cuisine. Closely linked to these is also the food of North Africa.
I had been meaning to write about this wonderfully fragrant spice-blend from the Middle East-North Africa, ever since I made it as a house warming present last year. It is as much at home in my kitchen as is the garam masala. And just like for garam masala, there are hundreds of recipes for baharat too, likely changing from home to home.
It is an excellent substitute for Kashmiri garam masala (I know – that recipe is also pending!). I use a pinch of this here and there, wherever I need a hint of spice and yet am reluctant to use my Punjabi garam masala. The spices used are almost the same, yet the proportion changes the final outcome, and provides the change our palates constantly seek.
Without much further ado (and before I lose that scrap of paper forever):
Baharat and Lime Marmalade: house warming gifts last year!
(Adapted from Ellen’s Kitchen)
1/4 C black peppercorns
1/8 C coriander seeds
1/8 C cinnamon or cassia bark
1/8 C cloves
1/4 C cumin seeds
1 T cardamom pods
1 T ground nutmeg
1/8 C ground cayenne pepper (laal mirch – I used Kashmiri mirch)
Lightly roast the whole spices in a heavy pan for 2 minutes, till they just begin to release their fragrance. Cool. Grind to a fine powder and mix with powdered nutmeg and red chilli powder. Store in an air tight jar.
The spice blend is also great as a meat rub. I tried it with lamb, the meat of choice allover the middle east. And in place of garam masala in Kashmiri mutsch. No, that doesn’t make it fusion. Baharat, though, is a result of fusion of centuries of cooking styles; a delicious expression of the collective influence of Arab, African, Berber, Ottomon, French, Italian, and Spanish ingredients.
Check out Bahraini Baharat from A Cook’s Cottage.