Baharat: A Bit of Turkish Terroir

Who needs a spice grinder when you have a hammer?

It’s a lot more fun. Just try waiting until your housemate is gone before trying this recipe.

Working in a locally-owned cafe has many benefits.  Especially if the cafe is experimental with cuisines, flavors and combinations.  And if the cafe has some sort of totally obscure, random ethnic influence like, say, Turkish.

Olives. Paprika. Lentils. Coarse bulghar. Feta. Dill. Cilantro. Kofta and kebobs. Salted yogurt. Cacik.

Sounds quite Greek in spots, but is slightly, yet definitively Turkish. (And try not to get the two mixed up, or risk nationality offense; the Greeks and the Turks don’t have the most friendly relations, historically.)

And Turkey doesn’t get too much spotlight here in America, (except perhaps, for Turkish coffee) with only pockets of clustering Turks in places like Los Angeles, Miami and New York.  This makes it hard to find Turkish cook books, spices, imported foods and dish sets or cookery.

So I’ve had to really scrounge around, searching multiple places for recipes from Turkey, complete with its own cultural cooking style. (Though having Lavent (from Turkey) in the cafe is a leg-up on discovering these things.)

One of the great things about Turkish cuisine (as with a lot of other cuisines) is its heavy use of spices and herbs. Baharat (literally meaning ‘spices’) is sort of a Turkish counterpart to garam masala; heavy on the black pepper, with a mix of savory, pungent and bright flavors traditionally used to round out a perfect dish of lamb, beef or a soup.  And with this season’s farmers market starting up TOMORROW (!) I thought it the perfect time to make a batch of the stuff for experiments on dishes with fresh, local produce.


2p. black pepper
2p. cumin
1p. coriander seed
1p. dried mint
1p. cloves
1p. nutmeg
1p. green cardamom*
pinch of cinnamon

Mix all spices in a bowl and store in airtight container, away from light and heat for best flavor retention.

*Note on green cardamom: this is where the hammer comes into play.  When you buy cardamom in the pod, it keeps the flavorful seeds way fresher, but you have to crack open the green covering to get to them.  Simply press down on the pod with the back of a wooden spoon to split it open, scrape the seeds out and remove any chaff.  Gather all the seeds into a folded sheet of waxed paper (folded on all four sides is a good idea) and proceed to whack with a hammer until the seeds are pommeled into a coarse powder.
Store any unopened pods in the freezer for maximum shelf life. 


3 responses to “Baharat: A Bit of Turkish Terroir

  1. Camille.

    My friend Ana Sortun wrote a cookbook called “Spice – Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean”. It’s wonderful She is also the owner and chef of Oleana in Cambridge MA. She spent time in Turkey and her cooking is heavily influenced by it. If you’re ever in the Boston area, by all means go.

  2. mmmm. Looks and sounds delicious. I know you like lamb, and since it seems like you enjoy Middle Eastern spices you should try kibbeh. I’ll see if I can scrounge up a recipe for you.

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