A while back I posted a recipe for Fragrant Poached Chicken on Freekeh Pilaf, that called for the Middle Eastern spice mix baharat.
Baharat simply means ‘spice’ in Arabic, but refers to a blend of different spices that is used as a base to flavour infinite numbers of dishes. From North Africa via Turkey to the Gulf, each region Middle Eastern – and each household within those regions – has its own version of baharat. Some are as simple as black peppercorns and allspice, and others use more than eight ingredients. Turkish baharat includes dried mint, the Tunisian version employs the delicate perfume of rose petals, and in the Gulf the mix is heady with the tartness of loomi – dried lime. Most baharat mixes include allspice, cardamom and cinnamon or cassia and all blends are warming and aromatic. You can buy baharat spice mix (try gourmet food stores or Middle Eastern grocers’) or easily make your own mix with the ingredients you prefer, in a mortar and pestle.
Baharat is an all-purpose seasoning and is often fried off with butter at the start of cooking to disperse the flavour It’s used in all sorts of meat and vegetable dishes: soups, stews, tagines, meat casseroles, kofte, pilafs and couscous. It is excellent whisked with some oil and lemon juice to create a marinade for meat and vegetables. Baharat can also be used sparingly to season food after cooking.