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Hawaj Spice Blend

One of the great spice mixes from the Middle East

I am quite into Middle Eastern flavourings at the moment, it’s my new ‘Asia’ which I really overdosed on for a few years and had to find a new source of inspiration for my cooking. Like the food of Asia, spice plays a big part in the food of the Middle East and I have really enjoyed learning about the different spice blends of the region.

Hawaj is a bit of a new one on me, it originates in the Yemen and is, too all intents and purposes an Arabic garam masala. The ingredients are there to prove me right; white cumin seeds, cardamom, black peppercorns, turmeric and coriander (cilantro) They all combine to make for a heady, warming blend leaving you wondering where you might have tasted it before.

Hawaj is often used to flavour coffee and desserts from the Middle East, I was thinking how well it would work with roast lamb or vegetables or a light sprinkling on some white fish fillets. At the moment I am thinking cauliflower soup, with the spice mix fried off with the cauliflower and onions until everything is nicely coloured (or ‘caramelised’ as every man and his dog now says) before adding the stock. A fat bundle of appropriate herbs will go in as a flavouring and once cooked, pureed and checked for seasoning I’m going to finish it with some chunks of feta cheese, some toasted pine nuts, candied lemon zest and fresh mint. Should be good, I hope!

Look out for some different spice blends, ras el hanout has seen its star rise and fall of late in the chef world, another case of ‘truffle oil overkill’ as it were but don’t let that put you off, trends come and go but ras el hanout is here to stay!

Hawaj Spice Blend

4 Comments

  1. Cid says:

    Miles,

    Are you going to candy your own lemon zest? I would be interested to know how it’s done.

    The soup sounds delicious…. I love toasted pine nuts in anything.

    I’ve been thinking about concocting a cordial from what’s in the garden. Two litres of elderflower cordial didn’t last as long as I’d hoped and now with all this rain, the flowers have gone. Ah well perhaps the same method could be used with say, angelica stem, lemon balm, a little tarragon, a few rose petals and a splash of either rose water or orange blossom water. Either that or a mint cordial…. it just depends what’s left in the garden. Roll on rose hip season because I’m going to make lots of syrup. Incidentally for the anti aging contingent among us, rose hip seed oil is very good for the face and with no real scent, could be used by men without fear of smelling like a rose!

    Cid

    July 13, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  2. miles says:

    Cid,
    All I do is make a stock syrup which can be flavoured to suit the job in hand, bring it to the boil then add my finely sliced lemon zest, simmer for a few minutes before leaving in the syrup to cool down. It’s as simple as that.
    Your cordial ideas sound very appealing, isn’t it remarkable what can be gleaned from the garden when a little imagination is used?

    Miles

    July 13, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

  3. Cid says:

    Miles,

    I’ve got a real thing about soft drinks…. for instance when you go into pubs and eating establishments and they offer J2Os or some appalling fizzy orange, my heart sinks. Perhaps it’s the profit margins involved, I don’t know but elderflower has become big business over the last couple of years and I can see why.

    Getting back to your original comment…. I haven’t seen white cumin seeds… is their flavour different?

    Cid

    July 13, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

  4. miles says:

    Cid,
    White cumin is actually the main variety of cumin, the other variety is called black cumin which I tried growing for a photo assignment with only modest success. Black cumin seeds are smaller and more akin to nigella seeds, they’re a bit more aromatic.

    Miles

    July 13, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

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