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Hawaij Couscous

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

It all started with Zahav, the fabulous book on Israeli cooking by Michael Solomonov. Reading Michael’s descriptions of traditional Yemenite soup made me want to charter a flight to Israel, but I did the next best thing: I purchased some Hawaij (and practiced the pronunciation more times than I’d like to admit….CHA-WAYIJ). I was hooked.


There’s just something about the warm golden spices that transports me – and I don’t even know where. I’m 5th generation American on my Mom’s side, and while my Dad is Israeli, his Ashkenazi mother was cooking up shlishkes when he was a kid. I’ve got no Sephardic blood, although I later married into a Syrian family where they cook up their couscous with allspice. This, then, is the power of hawaij, I decided. It has the ability to carry you to a place you never even knew – but it feels like home. Perhaps it’s my souls yearning for Jerusalem, the city of gold, the color of this truly intoxicating blend: Zahav.


Of course the first thing I cooked up with Hawaij for soup wasn’t soup. Because I never go the traditional route (you should know that by now). Instead, I made Jerusalem Hummus in Jars, followed by Hawaij Garlic Confit  (you can find that life-changing recipe in my cookbook, Millennial Kosher), some roasted chicken and potatoes, and, yes, finally the soup (where I mixed the meat and chicken in one pot). I also explored the sweet side of Hawaij, with Hawaij for coffee – although of course not in coffee – with my Hawaij Honey Cake.

If you’re confused – let me explain. Hawaij is so good – the Yemenites decided to make two blends – one sweet and one savory. The savory one is used for classic Yemenite soup and the sweet one, for coffee. But the magic spice deserves more and I’m all over it.


So this summer I was putting up a last minute pot of Israeli couscous when I realized I was out of chicken and vegetable stock. I prefer not to cook my couscous in water, since it’s kind of bland, so I looked through my spice cabinet to see how I could improvise. The hawaij for soup looked at me and I realized that if I didn’t have soup – then I could just let the hawaij for soup take it’s place, and then THIS happened! It’s everything you never knew you wanted in Israeli couscous and it’s about to become your go-to recipe.


And since I know by your messages that y’all have hawaij in your cabinets by now, no need to go searching. Just make sure you use the savory blend otherwise this will be a couscous to remember for other reasons  (insert facepalm here!).

Related Recipes:

hawaij honey cake with labneh frosting
Jerusalem hummus in jars

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Hawaij Honey Cake with Labneh Frosting

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

If you are lucky enough to own a copy of Millennial Kosher, chances are you are one of hundreds who has made my hawaij garlic confit a staple on their Shabbos table. I for one can not get through the weekend without the intoxicating smell of hawaij wafting through my home. And my challah can’t live without dipping into the fragrant oily dip.

I’m proud to have introduced so many people to one of my favorite spice blends – a Yemenite curry that is famous for it’s use in chicken soup. What many don’t know, however, is that there is also a sweet version of hawaij, traditionally used for coffee. Since many honey cakes incorporate coffee into the batter, I figured that spicing up the cake with some hawaij for coffee was the perfect way to introduce the sweet side of the Yemenite spice.

Besides for the fragrant spice blend, I also incorporated one of my favorite Israeli ingredients – silan or date honey. It’s interesting to note that when the Torah speaks of Israel being the “Land that flows with milk and honey”, it is actually referring to date honey. There is nothing quite like dates from the shuk in Israel, and silan has become a much-loved ingredient in my house. It works both in sweet and savory applications (try it over pargiot!) and it’s delicious when paired with tahini.

Now lets talk about the other unique component of this amazing recipe – the frosting! If you’d never tried making labneh before, it’s so much easier than it seems! Labneh is the Israeli cream cheese – light and creamy with a healthy dose of tang. I’m personally not a fan of classic American cream cheese, so it’s all about the labneh for me!

Labneh is extremely versatile – it can be rolled into balls and marinated in olive oil with different spices, drizzled with some olive oil and za’atar for dipping pita, or made into a sweet frosting with some added hawaij to perfectly compliment this breakfast loaf!

I am totally obsessed over how this recipe came together! The cake is crazy moist, nothing like that dry honey cake we all dread. The hawaij adds just enough spice, but nothing over the top, and the creamy frosting adds a nice tang to balance out the sweetness of the cake.

My favorite part about this cake though, was decorating it!! I had a vision for incorporating my favorite seasonal fruit – figs – and I just love how it came out! Feel free to play around with fresh pomegranate, honeycomb, cinnamon sticks and other fun toppings to make the cake your own.

I always say I’m not a baker, but this recipe helped me realize that even though I don’t like the science of baking, there is still so much room for creativity and if I can get around the technicalities, I can create a masterpiece.

Here’s to a New Year of trying new things, delicious eats and sweetness all around!

This post was sponsored by Norman’s. All opinions are my own. 

Related Recipes:

parsnip honey cake with cream cheese frosting
honey cake with caramelized apples
bourbon honey cake balls

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