Making My Peace With Allspice

Allspice is an integral part of Syrian cuisine. You can hardly read a recipe of a Levantine dish that doesn't include allspice. It could be used on its own or more commonly side by side with black pepper.

With me it was a complete different story...

People in Damascus are not fans of hot spicy food to say the least. The majority of my fellow Damascene can't tolerate heat in their food even black pepper could prove a challenge to some. Me on the other hand grew up in Saudi Arabia. Food there was way more spicy and eating very hot chilli sauce next to food was the norm.

Allspice didn't feature in our food as a family. My mum didn't like it and we never had it in our kitchen. My mum cooked exclusively with salt and black pepper.

So a 12 years old me, smug and proud of the amount of hot chilli I can handle, I developed this firm belief that allspice is a lame spice for lame people who can't even handle black pepper. I carried this belief with me for most of my life. I never cooked with allspice. I never bought allspice. I never even mentioned allspice. This got to the degree my wife didn't even know that allspice exists in Syrian cooking.

Now I am older and wiser, I decided to give allspice a fair chance and I actually loved the results. It has a nice flavour and a beautiful aroma. It is not the naff brother of black pepper I always imagined, it is a nice spice in its own right!

Now I made my peace with allspice, I wonder what is next for me. May be the lamest of all spices Bharat Mshakaleh (that is mixed spice for those of you who don't speak Arabic).


Rouaa said...

This is kinda odd. I grew up in Sweden and people here hardly uses salt, but I grew up with food that was pretty spicy and I do like to spice my food a bit more than my mom. All my friends loves the spices, however I don't know about people from Damascus. There are very few of us Damascenes here in this city.

Well... Spices are lovely. More spices to us! :)

Unknown said...

I love rediscovering a spice or something else I have previously written off. My latest is mint, I grew up associating it with grease traps (that's where it was grown) and vinegary sauce. I lovei t in so many ways now!
As for allspice, I love everything about it except it is so hard it roughens my spice grinder when I grind it!

Kano said...

I think the more north you go in Syria the spicier the food gets. Damascenes use little spice and they don't like their food hot at all while people in Aleppo love their chilli.

I need to try allspice in sweets. People use it in all kind of things and I need to get more creative using it.

Rouaa said...

@Kano well it sounds almost like I should be from Aleppo. h1aha... I'll have to be that odd Damascene who love my spices then :D

Allie said...

I totally understand how you could have a thing against allspice. I used to as well (though for me, I just viewed allspice as a thing you used if you were out of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc). In the last few years I too came to understand it really is a spice in its own right.

But it's been a lot of fun getting to know it better since then! In both sweet and in savoury applications.

Miriam said...

Hi Kano, I discovered allspice very recently, not even a year ago, and I must admit... I love it! I hope you start using it in your dishes, so that I can use it too... ;-)

Kano said...

There is two of us now ;)

I am using it more and more in savoury dishes but yet to use it in any sweets.

Allspice will feature more and more in my recipes.

I just noticed today that I haven't posted a main dish since the third of July! I need to start doing some proper cooking soon!

SHAKUEY201 said...

We go through a great deal of all spice, as it is an integral part of our kefta and Syrian pasta recipes.

Kano said...


Which Syrian pasta recipes? I cook few "Syrian Pasta" varieties white cheese and parsley, garlic yoghurt and tomatoe sauce.

Any other ideas?

SHAKUEY201 said...

Kano, our recipe is as follows:

In a pot, sautee one finely diced medium sized onion in butter (or olive oil for healthier recipe)for a few minutes. Then add 1 to 1/2 pounds mixed ground meat (mix of lamb and beef). Add allspice, salt and Aleppo pepper to meat to season (you can also add some garlic powder). As meat is cooking break it up into tiny pieces. Finally, once meat has browned, add 5-6 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste to meat and onions and work it into the mixture. Once this has been done add about 20 oz of water (at this point adjust to desired thickness, if sauce seems to thick, add more water, if it is too thin add another spoon of tomato paste). Finally, add allspice, salt and Aleppo pepper to the sauce. Simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Boil 1 lb thick spaghetti, strain and add pasta sauce.

Kano said...


This similar to what my mum used to cook. Instead of Aleppo peppers and allspice she used black pepper.

SHAKUEY201 said...

Kano, my family is from Halab so they hardly ever used black pepper in anything. All spice was the dominant spice in the kitchen LOL.

Anonymous said...

there is a recipe of pasta with coriander typical of Damascus called mouhafarat with coriander
you could make your own pasta or use caviatelli or small shell
add a bit of flour to the water after pasta is done so you get the feeling of fresh boiled pasta
saute 8 cloves of chopped garlic with 2 cups chopped coriander
do not drain the pasta
then add the whole mixture to the pasta eat it with a spoon in a soup bowl
truly delicious

Kano said...

That is very interesting. I always considered myself an expert however never came across this dish. How do you pronounce the name? With (aat) or (ah)at the end?

Reminds me (a bit) of Haraa' Esbaa'o short cut. When I make it with pasta I add flour to cooking water to thicken it.

طارق أبو الريش said...

why no saudi recipes ?

Kano said...

@ Tarek

Welcome to my blog and sorry for the late reply.

No Saudi recipes because the blog is mainly about Syrian food. having said that, I have posted my Kabseh recipe. CXheck it out.

Post a Comment