Baharat is a very common spice in Middle Eastern cooking. The word baharat actually means "spices" in Arabic and is not actually one spice, but a blend of several spices. What spices are included in the blend vary geographically, but you can generally expect black pepper, coriander, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon. Many people like baharat because it does not contain any salt.
The Variations of Baharat
Baharat is to Middle Eastern cuisine as garam masala is to Indian food; the spices are ground into a fine powder, and it is a ubiquitous seasoning that differs from region to region, and sometimes kitchen to kitchen. Other than in Turkey, where baharat often contains mint, the basic ingredients are consistent from blend to blend. In Tunisia, dried rosebuds are combined with cinnamon and black pepper; other spices that can be a part of baharat are sumac, saffron, chili peppers, and turmeric.
How to Use Baharat
Baharat can be used in many ways in the kitchen. It can be a seasoning for beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, and vegetables as well a dry rub or marinade. It is also added to soups and is used as a condiment. It is by no means spicy; it is aromatic and gives a little zest to any dish—especially, rice, lentil, and pilaf dishes. Baharat has a very nice blend of both sweet and smoky, which you can ascertain by simply opening a jar and giving a little sniff.
Experiment using baharat in everything from hamburgers to lamb chops. For recipes using ground beef, mix the baharat into the meat before cooking, usually about 1 teaspoon for every pound of ground beef. While the taste is not overpowering, it is very aromatic, which is why it is best to use such a small amount.
Recipes Using Baharat
This spice mixture is ideal when making spice rubs and marinades most of the work is already done—since baharat is a combination of several spices, you are saved the time and effort of measuring out each spice and mixing them together.
To use baharat in a marinade for chicken and lamb, add 1/2 cup of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of baharat, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt in a bowl or freezer bag. Add the chicken or lamb and allow it to marinate for 24 hours. The results are absolutely delicious and can only be achieved by using a blend of spices like baharat.
Baharat can also bring excitement to the bread basket. For a zesty version of pita bread, brush a little butter or olive oil onto pita bread and sprinkle a little baharat on the top. Bake for 10 minutes at 250 F and you have bread with a little "kick"!
How to Make Your Own Baharat
If you are unable to find baharat near you, it is simple to make your own. You will need a spice grinder, small coffee grinder (that you no longer use for beans), or a mortar and pestle. Although you can adjust the recipe to your taste, a good ratio to follow is 4 parts black pepper, 4 parts cumin seeds, 3 parts cloves, 3 parts cinnamon, 3 parts coriander seed, 1 part cardamom pods, 3 parts nutmeg, and 6 parts paprika. Process the first 6 ingredients until fine and then add the nutmeg and paprika and mix until combined. Store in an airtight container.