Zhoug

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The Mother-in-Law’s House was transformed into Grand Central Station this week, with the arrival and now imminent departure of Sally and her family.  If the internet were made of paper, you would see the tear drop stains on this page.

I first met Sally a year ago at shul in Bristol, where she and her family had landed off the boat from Australia.  I was intrigued to meet the woman who had the words ‘curate’ and ‘collect’ in her email address, and she was confused by my fashion sense.  We thought we’d hate each other.  But we didn’t.  She’s the first person I’ve met to use ‘triptych’ in a joke (and who doesn’t love a good art joke?), she gave me a copy of Stephanie Alexander’s ‘Kitchen Garden Companion‘ for my birthday, and she introduced The Husband and I to REAL coffee.  I will miss her tremendously.

Some people wave off their friends with flowers, others with memories captured by a camera.  I am sending Sally away with a recipe for sauce.

Sally, I dedicate this zhoug* to you.  It decorated many a shabbes meal we shared during your time here, and as it’s revered by the Jews of Yemen for its preventative and curative properties, be well.

Packed full of chillies, this utterly addictive and fiery condiment was brought to Israel in the 1950s by the Jews of Yemen who carried with it the legend that it protected them during a great plague.  (It’s not surprising seeing that chilli is believed to boost immunity, aid digestion, and recent studies show that a key component of the chilli plant, capsaicin, reduces inflammation and offers pain relief.)  Zhoug is now a staple component of Israeli falafel and pita, as pickle is to an English cheese sandwich, but better.  Much, much better.

Ingredients

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
4 garlic cloves
2-3 fresh hot green chillies
500g fresh parsley leaves and stems
800g fresh coriander leaves and stems
1 teaspoon chopped preserved lemon (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Method

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Crush the peppercorns, salt, cumin, caraway and cardamom in a pestle and mortar.

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Peel and crush the garlic.

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Wash the parsley, coriander and chilli peppers.  Chop off and discard the tough parts of the stems from the parsley and coriander.  Remove the seeds from the chilli peppers, being careful not to touch them with your fingers, but wash your hands afterwards anyway!

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Finely dice the preserved lemon, if using.

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Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz to a coarse paste.

Serve with pretty much anything but it’s extremely good stirred into hamishe chicken soup.

Store your zhoug in a container in the fridge for a week or two, covered with a drizzle of olive oil.

* To save embarassment, it’s pronounced ‘shroog’.