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Baharat Uncovered

Understanding Spices

What is baharat?

Baharat, meaning ‘spices’ in Arabic, is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend. It’s as essential to Middle Eastern cuisine as garam masala is to Indian food. The spice blend has an earthy, aromatic, zesty and warm flavour profile. It has a sweet and smoky taste without being too spicy or overpowering.

Like many traditional spice blends, its ingredients can vary from place to place. However, it generally includes the following spices:

  • Black pepper
  • Coriander
  • Paprika
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Cumin
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon

Other spices that may be used are:

  • Sumac
  • Saffron
  • Chilli
  • Turmeric

In Turkey, baharat often contains dried mint and in North Africa, dried rosebuds are added to the blend.

Baharat Spice Mix

Baharat vs Ras-el-hanout

Although baharat and ras-el-hanout share similar ingredients like cardamom, coriander, cloves and cinnamon, they do differ slightly. Ras-el-hanout is a Moroccan spice blend which contains a few more spices such as allspice and lavender. It also tends to use more unfamiliar spices like cubeb berries and guinea pepper berries.

A brief history of baharat

It’s believed that baharat came about because of the important role that Arabian spice traders played during the spice trade. Most of the spices in Ancient Rome came from Arabia via the Silk Road, brought over using camel caravans. When the spice trade shifted to sea routes rather than land routes, Arab traders sailed across the world, trading and bringing spices back to the Persian Gulf. From here, they would be distributed across Europe. As Arab traders dominated much of the spice trade, it’s not surprising that Arab cooks developed a taste for spices and complex blends, adopting it into their cuisines. Baharat spread quickly across the Mediterranean region where different countries and cultures adapted it to their own tastes.

How do you use baharat?

There are so many ways that baharat can be used. It’s frequently used in stews and soups, as well as rubs and marinades for meat. Simply add a dash of olive oil to the spice blend and brush over the meat before cooking it.

Baharat is also a great alternative for flavouring kebabs instead of using a shawarma blend, and you can even mix it into ground lamb to make a Middle Eastern inspired burger or meatballs (serve with yoghurt and cucumber salad in a pita). Baharat can also be used with seafood, and pairs well with fatty fish like mackerel and salmon.

For vegetables dishes, baharat adds a wonderful flavour to roast veggies, especially sweet potatoes and aubergine. Add it to rice dishes like pilaf and biryani, or sprinkle into fried rice for a twist. If you’re looking to spice up your dips, add a little bit of baharat to hummus.

Recipe suggestions

Keen to try it out? You can find baharat spice blend on our website here. Here are some great recipes which use the spice:

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