Zhoug is an aromatic Yemenite hot pepper and cilantro paste, which is known all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is mostly used as a condiment, but it is also added to soups and other dishes. In the dish here, I’ve decided to use it to flavor a raw onion relish, along with sweet Harrisa, a spiced North African hot peppers paste, which was served with broiled beef kebabs.
Ready made Zhoug can be found in some specialty stores, or online. However, unlike Harissa, it tastes best when freshly made. There are many recipes for it, with various spice combinations, so it can be easily adapted to your personal preferences. Red hot peppers can also be used instead of the green ones shown here.
As the relish has plenty of seasoning in it, I kept the kebab mixture minimally seasoned. The combination of flavors was bold, fresh and tasty; perfect for a summer lunch. Try it and enjoy.
* Grinding or chopping the meat at home, is the best way to ensure freshness and quality. For this dish, chopping the meat is more recommended, as it gives a lighter and less dense texture to the kebabs.
* I used THIS Sweet Harrisa, which is fairly mild, compared to most Harrisa pastes. If you’re using hotter one, adjust the amount accordingly.
* For a quicker option, grilled strips of flank steak can be used instead of the kebab, as shown at the bottom.
Makes: 1 cup
Prep time: 20 minutes
1 bunch cilantro
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 jalapeno peppers, deseeded
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cardamom powder
¼ tsp cayenne or hot paprika
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp allspice powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
2 tsp oil
1. Wash the cilantro, removed large stems and drain with a salad spinner. Chop roughly and set aside.
2. Place the garlic and jalapenos in a small food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Process roughly and add the cilantro, salt and spices. Process again, and add the oil towards the end of processing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Raw onion relish:
Makes: 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Marinating time: 1 hour
1 medium white onion
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs sweet Harissa paste (see notes)
2 Tbs Zhoug (recipe above)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1. Peel and dice the onion into fairly small cubes. Add salt, Harrisa, Zhoug and lemon juice and mix well. Keep at room temperature for at least an hour, to let the flavors blend. Mix well before using.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Broiling/grilling time: 10 minutes
0.7 lbs (340 grams) beef (I used flat iron steak)
1 small onion, peeled and roughly cut
½ cup parsley, packed
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Raw onion relish (see above)
1. Cut the beef into large cubes and place in a food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Chop well, cleaning the side of the bowl once. Transfer into a bowl.
2. Place the onion and parsley in the food processor bowl, and chop roughly. Add to the meat, along with the baking soda, salt and pepper. Mix well and form into 10-12 oval kebabs.
3. Broil or grill for about 10 minutes, until the kebabs are cooked through.
4. Spread the pita bread generously with the onion relish, add the kebabs, top with fresh parsley and serve.