Israeli Hot Sauces – Zhug & Amba

So as we round out Condiment Week, I was trying to decide what today’s final recipe should be. We did the classics of mayo, mustard, ketchup and relish…. but what would be a good final note? So I thought to myself, what do you see on tables at restaurants? I know! Hot sauce! But no one is really going to make their own Tabasco or Texas Pete sauce at home (well, some people will, but most of us won’t).

But then I remembered one of my mom’s favourites! Amba! A slightly pickled, slightly spicy, savoury mango sauce that she just loves on her laffa! And of course, when you’re ordering up your laffa, you can always ask for it to be cha’reef (hot in Hebrew), which means the addition of Zhug, a spicy herb paste that really kicks it up a notch. So for today, we get two recipes, Amba and Zhug. Remember, you can always adjust the heat level by adding more or less chilies to the recipes. Enjoy and MAKE SURE TO WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE TOUCHING YOUR EYES!

Zhug

Zhug – Israeli/Yemeni Hot Sauce
Makes about 1 ¼ cup

Ingredients:

10 to 14 fresh green chilies or jalapeños, seeded if you like and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 to 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
½ teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro*
½ cup packed parsley leaves*
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

* Click here to learn how to clean cilantro and parsley.

Directions:

Place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse several times, until you get a smooth paste. You will have to scrape down all the bits and pieces that stick to the sides of the bowl.

Pack in a jar and store in the refrigerator. Zhug will keep for one to two weeks. You can also freeze it, but it will lose some of its garlicky flavor.

Amba

Amba – Spicy/Savoury Israeli Condiment
Makes about 1 one-cup

Ingredients:

2 ½ green mangoes
1 ¼ tablespoons salt
½ tablespoon corn oil
2 ½ tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seed (whole, not ground)
1 tablespoon dried red pepper (about 2 ½ tiny ones, or more to taste)
½ tablespoon ground fenugreek
1 tablespoon hot paprika
½ tablespoon turmeric
½ head garlic, peeled and finely chopped (HEAD, not cloves)
¼ cup corn oil (more or less, for finishing)

Directions:

Wash the mangoes well and cut them up (including the peel) into slices the size of your pinky finger. Coat with the 1 ¼ tablespoons of salt, and place the slices into a large jar. Close the jar and shake it to evenly distribute the salt. Place the jar in a sunny spot for 4 to 5 days to release all the liquid in the fruit. At the end of this time the mangoes should be a very light, yellow colour.

Drain the mangoes, but make sure to save the liquid. Allow the mango slices to dry, preferably in the sun, for 3 to 4 hours. Heat the ½ tablespoon of corn oil in a pot, and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppers, fenugreek, paprika and turmeric. Cook and constantly stir for a few seconds, until the spices begin to pop and make tiny explosive noises.

In a separate small pot, boil the saved mango liquid and then add it to the heated spice mixture. Add the mango pieces and the chopped garlic. Stir, and continue cooking for 5 minutes on a low flame. Make sure the mixture does not dry out too much. Remove from the flame and let cool completely. At this point you can leave it chunky, or use a blender to purée it smooth.

Pour the mixture into a clean container with a lid and cover with the remaining corn oil, and then seal. The amba will keep in the fridge for at least six months.

Koshari (Egyptian Rice, Lentils and Macaroni with Spicy Tomato Chile Sauce)

KoshariSo this dish is great for those that love carbs! Known as one of the national dishes of Egypt, you can find this inexpensive dish served on street carts throughout the cities. Note of forewarning, this recipe does call for multi-tasking and having several pots cooking at once, however, not much needs to be done to those pots once they are cooking away. I am also including a recipe for the spice blend used in this recipe. It is fairly simple to make and you can do it up in bulk and keep on hand for dishes that you want to add a Middle-East taste to. This recipe will serve 6, and the spice mixture in the measurements shown will make just less than half a cup of the blend, enough for this recipe and a few more dishes.

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups medium grain rice
1 ½ cups brown lentils
3 cups small macaroni
3 cups vegetable stock
1-2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 bay leaves
¾ teaspoon salt

For the Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 (796ml) can crushed/pureed tomatoes
1 tablespoon baharat spice blend (see recipe below)
¼ – ½ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Crispy Onion Garnish:
3 large onions, finely sliced
Oil for deep-frying
1 (540ml) can garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and fry it for 2 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Bring it to a boil, decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under cold water and add them to another medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Add the garlic, cumin and bay leaf and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Once cooked, add the salt and stir to combine. Strain any excess liquid if necessary.

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente.

To make the sauce:
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add the tomato sauce, baharat, salt and pepper to taste, chili flakes (if using) and red wine vinegar. Bring it to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To make the crispy onions:
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onions and fry until dark brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain and cool.

To Serve:
Add the rice, lentils and macaroni to a large bowl and toss to combine (or simply scoop out desired amounts of each onto the plates). Sprinkle a little baharat over each portion and serve topped with some of the spicy tomato sauce. Top with garbanzo beans, the crispy onions and another sprinkle of baharat. Serve warm.

Baharat (Middle Eastern Spice Blend)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1½ tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and dry roast the whole spices/seeds (except for the paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg) until they become very fragrant, about 3-5 minutes, tossing regularly to prevent burning. Transfer them to a bowl and allow them to cool completely before grinding them in a spice or coffee grinder along with the paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg. Keep stored in an airtight glass jar.

Hawayej Spice Blend

Hawayej Spice BlendHawayej, also spelled Hawaij or Hawayij, is the name given to a variety of Yemeni ground spice mixtures used primarily for soups and coffee. Hawayej is used extensively by Yemenite Jews in Israel and its use has spread more widely into Israeli cuisine as a result.

The basic mixture for soup is also used in stews, curry-style dishes, rice and vegetable dishes, and even as a barbecue rub. It is made from cumin, black pepper, turmeric and cardamom. More elaborate versions may include ground cloves, caraway, nutmeg, saffron, coriander and ground dried onions. The Adeni version is made of cumin, black pepper, cardamom and coriander.

The mixture for coffee is made from aniseed, fennel seeds, ginger and cardamom. Although it is primarily used in brewing coffee, it is also used in desserts, cakes and slow-cooked meat dishes. In Aden, the mixture is made with ginger, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon for black coffee, and when used for tea excludes the ginger.

Yield: Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

⅓ cup caraway seeds (generous 1 ounce)
⅓ cup cumin seeds (about 1 ounce)
⅓ cup coriander seeds (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons cardamom seeds (about ½ ounce)
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
3 tablespoons ground turmeric

Directions:

Lightly toast the first six ingredients in a skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to let them burn! Pour the toasted seeds and spices into a bowl, and allow them to cool. In batches, place the cooled seeds and spices in a coffee or spice grinder along with the salt and turmeric. Pulse the grinder in long, slow pulses to grind the seeds into a powdery spice mix, stirring inside the grinder periodically to evenly distribute the seeds. It may take a few minutes for the spices to reach the desired powdery texture. Store spice blend in an airtight container in a cool, dry pantry. Note: This can be made 1 month ahead.

Toasting and grinding the whole spices provides a fresher flavor than using pre-ground spices. However, if you already have ground spices and you don’t want to spend more money on whole spices, you may substitute ⅓ the amount of ground spice to 1 whole seed spice.

Easy Indian-Style Chicken

Indian Style ChickenThis is an easy, authentic chicken dish that gets its creaminess from coconut milk, rather than cream or yogourt, so it’s dairy free! This recipe will make enough for 6. I suggest serving it with basmati rice or na’an.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 ½ onions, finely chopped
¼ cup and 2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup and 2 tablespoons water
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cubed
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot chili paste or siracha (optional)
3 pinches cayenne pepper (optional)
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup chopped cilantro*

Directions:

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, and fry for a few minutes until they become fragrant and begin to pop. Stir in chopped onion, and cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste and water, and pour into skillet. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until it has firmed and turned white, about 5-7 minutes. Add coconut milk, brown sugar, chili paste, cayenne pepper, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and continue to simmer until the chicken is tender and no longer pink in the centre, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving.

* Click here to see how to properly clean fresh cilantro.

Mango Chutney

Mango ChutneyStrangely enough, I’m not a huge fan of mangoes, but I find I LOVE mango chutney. I think it’s the sweet, spicy balance that it adds as a condiment that gets me. This chutney will go great with the Samosas that we made the other day, or even non-Indian foods. You’d be surprised how well a little dab of chutney goes with cholent! This recipe makes about 3 cups of chutney.

Ingredients:

4 green (under ripe) mangoes – peeled, seeded, and cut into strips
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 ½ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 cardamom pods
4 cardamom seeds
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 cup distilled white vinegar
5 black peppercorns, crushed

Directions:

Place the mangoes into a large pot. Crush the ginger and garlic using a mortar and pestle until they become a smooth paste (or be all fancy and use the food processor for a faster easier time of it!); stir the paste into the mangoes. Stir in the sugar, and season with salt, red pepper flakes, cumin seed, cardamom pods and seeds, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Stir to blend, and then cover the pot. Leave the pot sitting out at room temperature overnight.

The next day, place the pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and peppercorns; cook for 1 more minute. Remove the whole spices as best as possible (as they can be unpleasant to bite into). Cool before using. Keep stored in the fridge when you’re not using it.

Orange, Tea, Bourbon-Brined Paprika Turkey

Turkey Breast

Brine a turkey breast for hours in a savoury, flavorful combination of spices, black tea, and bourbon. The breast is seasoned with a spiced margarine and roasted until golden brown and tender.

Ingredients:

1 (8 pound) whole turkey breast

Brine:
2 quarts water
5 oranges – juiced and zest cut off in large strips
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup white sugar
12 black tea bags
4 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
12 whole black peppercorns
1 cup bourbon whisky (or other strong alcohol of choice)
4 quarts cold water, or as needed

Seasoned Margarine:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
6 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
6 tablespoons margarine, softened

Directions:

Pour 2 quarts of water into a very large soup pot and stir in orange juice and zest, kosher salt, sugar, black tea bags, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and bourbon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix 4 quarts cold water into brine and let cool. Submerge turkey breast in brine, adding more water if needed to cover. Refrigerate 8 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set oven rack to the lowest position in the oven. Remove turkey from marinade; discard marinade. Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix coriander seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, and garlic into softened butter in a bowl. Loosen the skin over turkey breast with your fingers and spread ¼ cup of the seasoned margarine beneath the skin. Rub remaining margarine over the turkey breast. Place turkey breast onto a roasting rack and set rack into a roasting pan.

Roast in the preheated oven until skin is golden brown and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees F, about 2 hours. Transfer to a cutting board and let turkey breast rest 30 minutes before slicing.