Don’t know your Muhammara from your Mujaddara?
Let’s help you navigate the culinary world of the Middle East & North Africa
Baba Ganoush: A Levantine dip of roasted/grilled eggplant mixed with tahina, olive oil and various seasonings.
Baharat: simply meaning “spice” in Arabic, it is an all-purpose seasoning used across Middle Eastern cuisines. It typically includes black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, among other spices.
Berber: An ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. They live in an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River.
Bulgur/Bulghur: Bulgur wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked.
Chermoula: A marinade used in Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan and Tunisian cooking and is typically used to flavour fish or seafood but can be used on other meats and vegetables. It is often made of a mixture of herbs, oil, lemon juice, preserved lemons, garlic, cumin, and salt.
Couscous: A North African Berber dish of small steamed balls of semolina, usually served with a stew spooned on top.
Dukkah: An Egyptian condiment consisting of a mixture of crushed herbs, nuts and spices. It is typically used for seasoning or as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables.
Falafel: A popular Middle Eastern specialty made up of small, deep-fried croquettes or balls of spiced, ground chickpeas (garbanzo beans). They are generally served inside flatbread/pita bread, but can also be served as appetizers and in salads. A yogurt or tahini-based sauce is often served with falafel.
Fattoush: A Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread combined with mixed greens and other vegetables, such as radishes, cucumber, tomatoes and parsley.
Freekeh/Farik: Grains of immature ‘green’ wheat that have been roasted to preserve nutrients and give a delicate smoky/nutty flavour. A wholesome alternative to rice or couscous – full of protein and fibre!
Harissa: A smooth, hot paste of chillies and garlic originating from Tunisia. There are many variations of Harissa, which also include tomatoes and spices. From the Arabic word “Har” meaning hot.
Houmous/Hummus: Also known as ‘hummus bi tahini’ (chickpeas with tahini), this is a very popular Levantine and Egyptian dip made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
Khubz: A popular, round Arabic flatbread that forms a staple of the local diet across the Middle East and North Africa.
Kibbeh: A mixture of bulgur wheat, minced onions, ground beef, lamb, goat or camel meat with Middle Eastern spices – typically served in small croquettes stuffed with a filling.
Levantine: The Levant is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the eastern Mediterranean that includes Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus, Israel, Iraq and Palestine.
Maghreb: A collective term for the North African countries of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as Mauritania. In Arabic language, Maghreb means “West” or “Western”.
Manakeesh: A popular Levantine food consisting of flatbread dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat.
Mehraz: A Moroccan mortar and pestle typically made of brass.
Mezze: A mezze or meze is a big part of the dining experience in Eastern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Arab countries. The word “meze” means “taste” and/or “snack.” The concept is very similar to the tapas of Spain, but with different ingredients. Plates can include a variety of dips such as hummus, baba ganoush and muhammara with flatbreads, olives, falafel and vine leaves.
Moujaddara/Mujaddara: A lentil dish eaten throughout the Arab world, it is generally made using brown or green lentils and rice that can be seasoned with cumin, coriander, or mint.
Muhammara: A smooth, hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria, found in Levantine and Turkish cuisines.
Pomegranate Molasses: A thick, dark syrup made by reducing fresh pomegranate juice. Sweet and tangy, it is similar to balsamic vinegar but is much fruitier. Used in marinades, vinaigrettes, dressings and dips.
Ras El Hanout: Meaning ‘head of the shop’ this is a spice mix from North Africa that is typically a mixture of the best spices a spice seller has to offer. It plays a similar role in North African cuisine as garam masala does in Indian cuisine and is used in savoury dishes, rubbed on meat and stirred into couscous.
Rose Water: A flavoured water made by steeping rose petals in water. It has a very distinctive flavour and is used heavily in Middle Eastern cuisine—especially in sweets and spice mixes.
Saffron: The world’s most expensive spice, derived from the Saffron Crocus, it is used to add earthy flavour and a distinct yellow hue to dishes. In the past, it was used in traditional medicine and textile dyeing. It takes over 4,500 crocus flowers to make one ounce of saffron spice.
Saj Bread: A flat, round, unleavened bread that is typically baked on a domed or convex metal griddle, known as saj.
Sumac: A deep red berry, which is dried and ground into a coarse powder. It is a versatile spice with a tangy lemon flavour – but more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. Sumac was used across Europe to add tartness to dishes until the Romans introduced lemons to the area.
Tabbouleh/Tabouleh: a Middle Eastern vegetarian dish traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur wheat, and onion, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
Tagine: A North African/Berber dish named after the pot in which it is cooked. Tagine dishes are typically savoury stews of spiced meat and vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware cooking dish with a tall, conical lid.
Tahini/Tahina: A sauce made from toasted, ground hulled sesame seeds. Tahini is a staple across the Arab world and is the key ingredient in houmous.
Za’atar/Zahtar: A popular, savoury spice mix made with dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and salt – other spices including sumac can also be added.