Xawaash (pronounced HA-wash) comes from the Arabic word hawaij, which is used to describe Yemeni spice blends. Xawaash touches just about every Somali dish. It’s like the garam masala of Somalia, and the mix of flavors is truly the flavor of the Indian Ocean. Each Somali home cook prepares hers differently. This is how Hawa prepares hers. She always makes a large batch so she has it on hand to add to dishes as she cooks, adding layers of deep, warm flavors to everything from Digaag Qumbe (Chicken Stew with Yogurt and Coconut) to Bariis (Basmati Rice Pilaf with Raisins), Suugo Suqaar (Pasta Sauce with Beef, recipe here), and Somali Beef Stew. You can also toss it on vegetables or chicken before roasting or use it as a dry rub on any type of meat before grilling.
One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
½ cup cumin seeds
½ cup coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns 6 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
Place the cinnamon stick in a small zip-top plastic bag, seal it, and bang it a couple of times with a rolling pin, skillet, or mallet (anything firm and heavy) to break it into small pieces.
Place the cinnamon pieces, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves in a small heavy skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the smell is very aromatic and the spices are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Transfer the mixture to a clean coffee grinder and grind into a fine powder (or use a mortar and pestle and some elbow grease). Transfer the ground spices to a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and sift. regrind whatever large pieces remain in the sieve and add them to the bowl with the ground spices. Add the turmeric. Whisk well to combine and transfer the mixture to an airtight jar. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
Reprinted with permission from In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen, copyright © 2020. Photographs by Khadija M. Farah & Jennifer May. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
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