For those who love to spend time in the kitchen, it can be tough to replicate those authentic flavours found in different cultures across the world.
Some ingredients, like chillies in Mexico, or turmeric in India, are simply necessary to recreate the tastes that make natives feel at home.
Dishes from the Middle Eastern and North African regions have distinct flavours that can’t be found anywhere else since they use age-old spice mixes, pastes and fruit derivatives to give their food that Arabic touch.
In this list, we have put together some of the most typical ingredient mixes used in that part of the world, and even how to make them yourself!
Disclaimer: depending on where you are living, some of the elements in these spices and pastes may need to be procured in specialist markets.
The taste of za’atar is unmistakeable. It is sprinkled on salads, used in marinades or on top of the typical breakfast dough manakish, adding a herby tanginess that is hard to find elsewhere. Although it is sold by the kilo in Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon, it can be tough to find it anywhere else.
Luckily, though the mix varies from region to region, it is simple to make:
The base is made of sumac, dried thyme and sesame seeds in around equal measure. Oregano and ground cumin are then often added to taste along with a small amount of salt.
Note: Sumac is a tangy spice made from berries which is becoming more popular but may need to be bought in a Middle Eastern market.
And you’ll be pleased to hear that this typically expensive sauce can be made at home using only two ingredients: sesame seeds (of course) and oil.
In fact, the oil is not even necessary but helps with the consistency. With a blender, put in your desired amount of sesame seeds (toasted or raw, though toasted is more fragrant) and blend them, adding a tablespoon of a light olive oil occasionally until it is the texture you like. Why would you ever buy it in a jar again?
Surprisingly, for this fancy sounding ingredient, all you need is pomegranate juice. You can blend your own juice from the seeds of the fruit or buy the juice ready-made. Once you have the juice, you boil it until it becomes a syrup, adding sugar if the fruit is bitter or lemon if it is too sweet.
Labneh is a thick cream cheese that can be creamy enough to use as a dip for pita bread, or solid enough to shape into balls, depending on what you want to use it for and the area that the recipe is from.
For this, you only need natural, unflavoured or Greek yogurt, and add a little salt to help separate it from the whey. Then, placing the yogurt on a fine cheesecloth (or a plain white pillowcase), suspend it over a bowl for a few hours or overnight, according to how drained and sour you want it to be (over time the liquid whey will drip out and the labneh will become more sour).
This is a great opportunity to use your za’atar from earlier as it’s the most common combination!
Arabic cooking wouldn’t be the same without dried limes. And, as the name suggests, it’s very simple to make at home, though time consuming.
All you need to do is boil the limes in salty water and then let them dry in a hot, dry place, preferably in the sun, until they go black and hard. Use them whole or grounded in soups, stews, with chicken, in rice water… you won’t regret the wait once you see how it boosts the flavours!
The truth is, even if you’re from the other side of the world, you can feel connected to any culture just by experiencing their cuisine which comes from centuries of tradition. And it’s not as tough as it seems!
Now is the perfect time to explore and learn about these customs during the celebration of Ramadan in Muslim cultures. If you are sharing in the Iftar or Eid festivities, why not impress your Middle Eastern friends with your homemade spices and snacks?
If you are celebrating your Iftars or Eid in Barcelona, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about our special deals to add Delhicioso! food to the feast!