What to do with the left over coriander (cilantro) leaves and stems at the end of the week – a perpetual problem in a family that uses a lot of green coriander. One solution we have is to make Coriander Paste. Another is to make Zhoug, a Yemeni-Israeli sauce or dip full of spices – sometimes spelled skhug, zhug, , schug or s’hug. It is a fiery, garlicky, herby green bowl of goodness. Traditionally a perfect accompaniment to pita with falafel, it also serves as a sauce, spread and dip. It can be stirred into soups and stews to spark them up. Spread a little on a sandwich or warm pita bread, drizzle it on pasta, or serve it with grilled halloumi or vegetables for an extra herby and spicy kick of flavour.
Zhoug can be fiery hot, depending on your chilli level, and Yemenites believe that eating zhoug daily strengthens the immune system, keeps away illness and strengthens the heart. Preparations for Zhoug vary widely, but a few things remain constant – green herbs, garlic, spices and chilli.
Once you have experienced the fragrant spiciness of Zhoug, you will be making this weekly with your left over coriander, or, indeed, buying extra coriander each week, just to make this pesto-like sauce. Actually, Zhoug is a green cousin to Shatta, which is a similar dish, except Shatta uses mild red chillies. Zhoug has also been called Israeli Chilli Paste, a green harissa, a Middle Eastern Gremolata and a hot chermoula.
The texture of Zhoug varies – different recipes show it as thin through to quite thick, and quite smooth through to coarse. Choose a texture depending on your intended use each time you make it.
Zhug | Zhoug | Skhug | A Coriander Paste, Dip and Sauce
1 large bunch coriander
2 – 3 green chillies, or to taste
1 tspn black pepper
1 tspn caraway seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
0.25 tsp ground cardamom
0.25 tsp salt
2 – 3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tblspn olive oil
2 Tblspn water
rind of a little preserved lemon or fresh lemon juice
Place all of the ingredients except the water into a blender and blend until it is a paste of your desired texture. Thin with a little added water or more olive oil if desired.
Taste and adjust salt and lemon if needed. Pack into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.
recipe notes and alternatives
Add a cup of parsley to the Zhoug.
You can roast the spices before blitzing, for added flavour.
Use in a variety of ways. Wonderful served with pita, a bowl of grated or diced tomatoes, hummus and falafel. It can serve as a sauce, spread and dip. It is wonderful stirred into soups and stews to spark them up. Spread a little on a sandwich or warm pita bread, drizzle it on pasta, or serve it with grilled halloumi or vegetables for an extra herby and spicy kick of flavour.