A Yemini Spicy Paste – Zhug


I love using freshly prepared spice pastes and this is one which I can seriously recommend you try. Pounding a paste using a pestle and mortar is such a gratifying experience and I have become addicted to the process. If you don’t regularly use one or use one at all, I suggest you in indulge – you will become addicted! This is a really powerful flavour hit and is just perfect as a dip for bread or as a condiment. Thanks to Ghillie Basan for sharing this in Flavours of the Middle East.


8 dried long red chillies

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon of sea salt

seeds of 6-8 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 small bunch of coriander/cilantro, finely chopped

3-4 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil (I prefer olive)

sterilized jar

Put the chillies in a bowl and pour over enough warm water to cover them. Leave to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight so they soften. Drain them, cut off the stalks and squeeze out the seeds. Discard the stalks and seeds and then roughly chop them. (You may want to use disposable gloves for this process).
Using a pestle and mortar, pound the chillies with the garlic and salt to form a thick, smooth paste. Add the cardamom and caraway seeds and the peppercorns. Pound them with the chilli paste – you want to break up the seeds and peppercorns but leave some texture. Beat in the parsley and coriander, and bind the mixture with most of the oil.
Spoon the spice paste into a sterilized jar, drizzle the rest of the oil over the top and keep in a cool place or in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. When serving, mix the layer of oil into the zhug and garnish with finely chopped flat leaf parsley.

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