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Spice mixes are like folk songs. It is rare to find two identical versions. That is the fluid nature of music and food. Ask two Yemenite grandmothers for their Hawaij recipe and you will probably get 2 different but equally delicious recipes. Instead of reaching for 5-6 different spices and herbs to flavor your meals, prepare, in advance, a few well balanced mixes. I guarantee it will save you time and improve the flavour of your go-to dishes. Sprinkle Dukkah over your rice or stuffed peppers, coat your tofu or roasting potatoes with smokey Baharat (Shawarma) spices or sauté onions in Hawaij before adding them to veggie soup. Keep Dukkah and Za’atar on the table with the salt and pepper to sprinkle as you see fit.

       “Wake up the stars have moved.”

Hours earlier we had arrived, descending the winding, cracked asphalt road that leads through the Negev dessert to the edge of the crater, switchbacking to the bottom. Sunlight glinted morse signals from the wrecked cars that had met disaster on their way down the steep incline.

Our poor car bumped across dirt tracks, that had more ruts than road, as we stared distractedly at the terra-cotta hills and lavender shadows between. The setting sun splashed the sky and illuminated copper the distant, sheer walls of the makhtesh* that surrounded us.

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” “Where are the people?” resumed the little prince at last. “It’s a little lonely in the desert…” “It is lonely when you’re among people, too,” said the snake.”

-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We wandered the Nabatean ruins of the Spice route, sitting in stone rooms long forsaken. Dry winds carried the sweet fragrance of desert Broom (Rotem) blooming in nodding sprays of white from the green wadis.

Night fell like a turbulence of blue roses.

Arriving at the empty camp site I remained behind to guard our stuff while my husband Hanaan and my son Aylam ambled off (with the flashlight) to tell the Bedouin grounds keeper that we were staying the night. There I sat on the stony ground, in darkness thick as molasses, listening to the jackals, knowing it would take 3 cups of tea, until the boys returned to me.

To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”

-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Return they did. After a smokey meal we spread out on our sleeping bags by the fading sparks of the fire. The stars drooped like low hanging fruit just out of reach and whirled their slow glowing dance against the black. We searched for the basic constellations, murmuring and yawning, falling in and out of sleep.

Long after the fire died, after the desert foxes had rummaged through our camp and made us giggle, after the moon rose and the boy and I were firmly asleep, I was woken by Hanaan’s whisper.

“Wake up the stars have moved.”

You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night..You, only you, will have stars that can laugh!  

 –The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

5 from 2 votes
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Za'atar (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo)
Prep Time
20 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

Za'atar is both an herb (hyssop) and a condiment that is used across the middle east. People dip their pita in it, throw it on their grilled veggies and sprinkle it on their labneh.

Course: condiment, Topping
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 10 people
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup sumac
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
  • 4 tbsp dried marjoram (1/2 that if using fresh)
  • 4 tbsp dried thyme (1/2 that if using fresh)
  • 4 tbsp dried oregano (1/2 that if using fresh)
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Mince your herbs if using fresh. Mix all the the listed ingredients together. 

    Store in an airtight container.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Dukkah (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo)
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 

An Egyptian condiment that is frankly addictive. I find myself grabbing the odd pinch during the day just to awaken my taste buds. As with all condiment you'll find many variations. I adore the mix of pistachios and hazel nuts but feel free to mix it up. Roasted peanuts are another great variation.

Course: condiment, Topping
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 10 people
Ingredients
  • 6 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted
  • 1/2 cup pistachios toasted
  • 6 tbsp coriander whole seeds toasted
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds toasted
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds toasted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Toast all of your seeds (except sesame) in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until fragrant. Remove from heat.


  2. Toast your nut in the same skillet until they smell all roasty toast and irresistible. Remove from heat

  3. I toast my sesame seeds separately because they just seem to want to burn the second I'm not paying attention.

  4. Once everything is toasted and has cooled.  Place all the ingredients in your food processor and grind to a coarse meal or pound away with a mortar and pestle. When you are done you want to still be able to see some color and texture variations not a pile of dust.

  5. Place in an air tight container and store in a dry place.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Hawaij (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo)
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

There are two Yemenite spice mixtures with the name Hawaij. One is used for coffee and the other is used in savory cooking and soups. I am giving you the latter. It is a tantalizing mixture of cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and whole seeds.

Course: condiment, Topping
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 10 people
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp peppercorns
  • 5 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 5 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp green cardamum pods
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Toast your whole spices, coriander, cumin and cardamom in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Grind all of your ingredients including the toasted ones in a spice or well cleaned coffee grinder. 

  2.  Grind all of your ingredients including the toasted ones in a spice or well cleaned coffee grinder. 

  3. Store in an airtight container.

 

5 from 2 votes
Print
Baharat, Shawarma Spice Mix (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo)
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

Just as Sahara means desert, Baharat means spices in arabic. Toss some chickpeas in olive oil and a tablespoon of Baharat and roast up a crunchy additive snack or sprinkle it over your already baked sweet potato. OMG!

Course: condiment, Topping
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 10 people
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 3 ground cumin
  • 2 ground coriander
  • 2 ground cloves
  • 1 ground nutmeg
  • 2 ground cinnamon
  • 1 ground cardamum
  • 1 tsp sugar optional
Instructions
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

*The Ramon Crater in Israel’s Negev dessert is the world’s largest erosion crater, or makhtesh. A landform unique to Israel’s Negev and Egypt’s Sinai deserts’, a makhtesh is a large erosion cirque, created 220 million years ago when oceans covered the area (the word crater is therefore a misleading translation of Hebrew to English.) The Ramon Crater measures 40km in length and between 2 and 10km in width, shaped like a long heart, and forms Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve.

-Tourist Israel

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It would make my day if you left me a comment. If you make one of these recipes please let me see by tagging @SunnysideHanne on Instagram, I’d love to see.

Comments

  1. A Lebanese friend of mine once gave me a jarful from the bag of spice mix that she’d brought back here after her last visit to her family. I would put my nose into it the jar and inhale the dusty fragrance of rocky Mediterranean hillsides. I imagine that for her the aroma was even more redolent of home and childhood and far-away loved ones; she was generous to have given me so much of her precious stock. As the contents of my jar dropped, I used it more and more sparingly until finally it was gone. Looking at the spice mix recipes you’ve offered here, I realize it must have been something like za’atar that my friend gave me. If I can find sumac I’ll whip up a batch and give her a big jarful.

  2. I just opened the package before leaving the office! Thank you for the za’atar, baharat, dukkkah, hawaij and Vietnamese cinnamon! A journey through the East encapsulated in little pots and tubs. Made my day, and then some. XXX

  3. We had a small dinner party last weekend and I used the za’atar to flavor the roasted potatoes and also sprinkled it on the Greek-style white beans. The perfect final touch to both.

  4. A cheat of sorts, a bag of pixie dust. One sprinkle brings food to life. You be Vianne, I’ll be Anouk, but of spices not of sweets. We always did prefer the savory.

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