Bahārāt, which simply means "spice" in Arabic, is an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Although the particular blend varies by region and household, it always includes black pepper and typically has cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, among other spices.
Aromatic, warm, and sweet, a pinch of bahārāt can add depth and flavor to soups, tomato sauces, lentils, rice pilafs, and couscous. It can also be used as a rub for fish, poultry, and meat; mixed with olive oil and used as a vegetable marinade; and blended with garlic, parsley, and olive oil to make a condiment paste.
Bahārāt is sold in Middle Eastern grocery stores, but it can also be easily mixed in your own kitchen. We recommend starting with whole spices, which tend to be more flavorful, especially when they are toasted before grinding. Here is one recipe, but feel free to alter the ingredients and proportions to create your own signature blend. Other additions may include sumac, saffron, turmeric, and chiles. Turkish style bahārāt includes dried mint, and in North Africa the blend often has dried rose petals.
Makes about 3/4 cup
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
4 (3-inch) cassia or cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons ground sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Grind the whole spices using a mortar and pestle, spice mill, or coffee grinder. (You may need to do it in several batches.) Add the paprika and nutmeg and combine.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Ras el Hanout
(Image: The Spice Trader)