STYLE

Use aromatic baharat spice blend for comforting beef stew with olives

11/10/2014 11:55 EST | Updated 01/10/2015 05:59 EST
Baharat (also known as advieh) is the name given to a classic blend of aromatic spices that is used widely in Arab and Iraqi cooking.

"It almost has everything that spices are about," says Ian Hemphill, author of "The Spice & Herb Bible," adding that using the spice blend in a stew is "just the ultimate comfort food."

"What is interesting is that when you make this Baharat Beef With Olives dish you would never taste it and think, 'Oh that's a lovely spicy dish,' because the spices don't dominate it. But what they do is they give this beautiful big rounded really sort of robust depth of flavour and it's a very good example of showing how these spices together form a completely different flavour profile than you would expect really from most of them individually.

"It's quite a traditional Middle Eastern type of flavour profile. Baharat is even sometimes referred to as Lebanese seven spice. It's often used with kebabs and things like that."

Baharat

20 ml (4 tsp) sweet paprika

10 ml (2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

5 ml (1 tsp) ground cumin

5 ml (1 tsp) ground coriander seed

5 ml (1 tsp) ground cassia

2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground cloves

2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground green cardamom seed

2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground nutmeg

In a bowl, combine ingredients, stirring well to ensure even distribution. Transfer to an airtight container and store, away from extremes of heat, light and humidity, for up to 1 year.

Makes 50 ml (10 tsp).

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Baharat Beef With Olives

Baharat spice mix makes this stew wonderfully comforting. Serve over creamy mashed potatoes.

Beef cheeks have become very popular in Australia, says Hemphill. "If they're slow cooked for about five hours at around about 120 C (250 F) you can just eat them with a spoon," he says. "They're so soft and part of the reason is they have a lot of connective tissue because they're muscle and that gelatinizes in the long slow-cook process which makes it incredibly soft."

If using beef cheeks, you may need to increase the cooking time to five hours.

If beef cheeks are unavailable, use a low grade of meat with more connective tissue in it such as stewing beef. A lean cut can end up tasting like shoe leather, Hemphill notes.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 3 1/2 hours

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 kg (2 lb) beef shin or cheek, cut into 6-cm (2 1/2-inch) pieces

22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) baharat spice mix

1 can (398 ml/14 oz) whole tomatoes, with juice

125 ml (1/2 cup) dry red wine

50 ml (1/4 cup) pitted black olives, such as kalamata

125 ml (1/2 cup) water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a Dutch oven over low heat, heat oil. Add garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes until softened but not browned.

Meanwhile, coat beef in baharat spice mix.

Increase heat to medium-high and add spiced beef to pan. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until browned on all sides (work in batches if necessary). Add tomatoes, wine, olives and water and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake in a 100 C (200 F) oven for 3 hours, until beef is very tender (check it after 2 1/2 hours). Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: "The Spice & Herb Bible" Third Edition by Ian Hemphill and Kate Hemphill (Robert Rose Inc., www.robertrose.ca).

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