My mother needed spices and I tagged along; she shopped at a spice shop close to our neighborhood in west Beirut; the shop was the size of a small closet and it was filled to the brim with small wooden drawers with all the spices that one needed to make any kind of Arabic dish or pastry. That day, she bought a seven-spice mix for kibbeh,some cinnamon sticks and I don’t remember what else.
I tried to find this shop and the man tending it but it was gone in the big reshuffle that occurred in Beirut after fifteen years of constant war. I heard he relocated.
This particular mix contains ginger, which we never used at home; you can make your own spice mix according to your taste! Some people love ground coriander and include it in their mix; my mother had a predilection for white pepper.
Bottom line is this: Lebanese cooking is very forgiving. Switching spices or omitting spices is not going to matter, since the mixture of spices varies between one family or neighborhood and another and whether one comes from the south (where folks love cumin and dried rose petals) or the north or the west of the country.
I buy the mix to save time, that is all. Use it for kibbeh, stews, kafta or soups.
If you want to make your own mix, a good guideline is this: Use the larger amounts for pepper, allspice and cinnamon, say one tablespoon of each; the lesser amounts (one teaspoon of each) could be for the cumin, or coriander or cloves or nutmeg, etc.
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