Zhoug … current condiment of choice for with … everything

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I don’t share a lot of savoury recipes here. Largely because I always think of myself as more of a(n amateur) baker than a(n amateur) cook. But when a dish sneaks its way onto my dining table again and again, it only feels right to share it here as well.

I used to be very contra any type of meal-prep that involves batch-cooking since I typically loathe eating the same thing more than once. (How boring!) And yet, over the past couple of months I keep on returning to the same dish: roasted Ras El Hanout carrots, a smear of labneh, generous dollops of zhoug and some bread to mop it all up. There is something utterly irresistible about the spiced carrots, roasted long enough in the oven so they start to caramelise on the outside yet retain some meatiness (no one likes a floppy carrot!), the rich dairy flavour of the labneh, and, the real star of this dish, the zhoug.

Originally a Yemenite condiment zhoug is now well known and loved all across the Middle East and beyond. Often added to falafel wraps it basically goes with … everything! Think of it like a herby Sriracha but with more body – spicy, fresh, herbaceous and almost buttery in flavour. So yes, it is brilliant with any kind of grilled meat or fish or spread on bread for sandwiches. It is also wonderful drizzled over labneh as a dip. And I am sure it also works a treat stirred into a chicken soup if you are feeling a bit rundown – the chilli in the zhoug should be enough to clear up any congestion! Once made, a jar of zhough will easily keep for a few days in the fridge, that is if you can resist sneaking a spoon or two every time you open the fridge (guilty as charged!).

Given its ubiquity, there are probably as many recipes for zhoug as there are Yemenite housewives. So over the past couple of months I have tried various recipes – trying different ratios of coriander to parsley, recipes that call for cardamom and other spices in addition to cumin, those made with and without some acidity like red wine vinegar or lemon juice. Below is the version I came up with after trying all these different recipes.

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Zhoug

Makes enough for 1 small jar

Notes: The recipe below makes enough to last me 3-4 meals if I am on my own. Feel free to double or triple the quantities if you are making this for a crowd. I also give the recipe for the Ras El Hanout carrots pictured in this post below. Also, zhoug is supposed to be quite fiery – so feel free to go as spicy as you want or, equally, leave out the heat, the sauce will still be super delicious.

Ingredients

2 small bunches of coriander (ca. 40g)
1 small bunch of parsley (ca. 20g)
½-1 red chilli pepper, chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
A few tablespoons of water to thin out

Directions

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until you have a rough paste. Depending on how thick everything is, add some water, a tablespoon at the time, to thin to your liking. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary to your liking.

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Ras El Hanout Roasted Carrots with Zhoug and Labneh

Note: This makes enough for 2 people as a main four people as a starter or one large plate to serve alongside other mezze for a larger gathering. Serve with some good bread on the side.

Ingredients

500g carrots, peeled

½-1 tsp Ras El Hanout
Salt to taste
Olive oil

150g labneh or Greek yoghurt (but don’t use the low fat one, you want the 10% fat one)

Zhough as per the above recipe

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Spread the carrots out on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter over the ras el hanout and a few pinches of sea salt. Using your hands try and spread the olive oil, spices and salt somewhat evenly over the carrots.

Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the carrots are starting to caramelize but still retain some bite. Make sure you turn the carrots every 10 minutes or so to ensure even cooking.

To serve, spread the labneh in an even layer on a large plate. Arrange the carrots on top of the labneh and dollop over the zhoug. Serve with bread for mopping everything up.

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