Spice blends are alluring. I’ve fallen under the spell of dukkah, ras el hanout, za’atar, garam masala and many other mixes that are pantry staples in kitchens around the globe. My latest love affair is with hawaij.
Hawaij, which means “mixture” in Arabic, is a Yemenite spice combination similar to Indian curry. It’s heavy on turmeric, with background notes of cumin, coriander, cardamom and black pepper. This yellow-tinged blend appears in recipes in newly published cookbooks “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen” by Adeena Sussman and “Food You Love but Different” by Atlanta-based author Danielle Oron.
Oron gets playful with hawaij, using it as a rub for halibut, and pairing it with Lay’s brand salt and vinegar potato chips, whose briny tang cuts through the spice.
There are plenty of other uses for hawaij, as Sussman notes. It can be a “flavor lightbulb” in a pot of chicken soup, and lend a boost to stews and braised short ribs.
I’m a fan of toasting the whole seeds over a warm flame, then grinding them in a mortar and pestle. It will coax out more aromatics and result in more rounded flavor. If you’ve only got ground spices, that will work, too. Simply stir the powdery mix in a saute pan over medium heat for a few minutes.
Try hawaij in Oron’s Fish & Chips recipe. If you like what you taste, make a bigger batch using Sussman’s recipe and reach for it with curry-style dishes, on rice, even as a barbecue rub.
Reprinted with permission from “Food You Love but Different” by Danielle Oron, Page Street Publishing Co., 2019.
Reprinted from “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen” by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Adeena Sussman.
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