Zhug was the first food I tasted from Israel that my mother in law brought with her on the plane. At the time she was my boyfriends mother. And I had no idea that ‘normal people’ eat a small spoon for a whole plate of food. In true Hayley Ann style I was shovelling it down – it was so tasty.
For those of you who have never tried this delicious condiment zhug is similar to a chilli paste & curry paste & sofrito all in one. It is extremely spicy – but also has enough garlic and greens to kill anything funky in your system (if you believe garlic is anti fungal and great for cleaning you out). Suffice it to say you need a partner who’s into garlic if you eat this on date night….
The recipe I’m giving you is my own take on zhug. Like anything else loved by a diverse group of people over lots of different lands, there are tons of variations. If my style isn’t the same as your parents or grandparents no worries – and in fact I’d love to know your recipe. It always excited me to see how people find ways to make recipes their own – and how the culture/land/people/economy/etc. around you influence a recipe as well.
Warning this recipe is spicy……
In the picture above I simply added 1 tablespoon of zhug to my quinoa while it was cooking. This gave it just the kick it needed to wake up my breakfast. I’ll post the recipe for that breakfast soon.
~2 bunches cilantro, chopped
~6 green Thai chillies, roughly chopped
~4-6 cloves garlic
~1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
~2 lemons juiced
~1 teaspoon ground coriander
~1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
~1 teaspoon cardamom pods, toasted*
~Sea salt to taste
*Note: Cardamom is a strong spice. Give it a sniff. Give it a taste. If it curls your nose hairs or makes you dry heave omit it. I find that a lot of people who have more of a ‘western’ palate can’t stand cardamom. A little goes a long way – and no shame in needing to work yourself up to liking it.
1) Place all your ingredients, except sea salt & olive oil, into a food processor or high powered blender. Then add two hearty pinches of sea salt, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
2) Blend or process for about 30 seconds. Turn off food processor/blender. Scrape down the side of your container. Continue blending for another 2 minutes stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. If the mixture is too dry add a little more olive oil to get things going.
3) Taste your zhug. REMEMBER this is gonna be potent. If it needs more salt add it in. I prefer my zhug to be a little more oily not so sour. If however you want your zhug to be sour like a vinegary hot sauce, then simply add more lemon juice to the mix. Every time you adjust the recipe blend for 20 second, taste, and evaluate. Once the zhug tastes just right you are ready to move on.
4) Scrape out zhug into a glass container fitted with a tight lid. If you don’t think you’ll use this up quickly simply divide it up in an ice tray to make zhug cubes – great for throwing in soups, stir fry, or anything else that need flavour while cooking on the stove. This will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Be mindful to wipe the lip of the jar occasionally as extra sauce can get stuck there or under the cap and start to spoil – ruining it for the rest of the jar.
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