Mahlab Spice Specialist Arabic Standard - 45g details and description
Steenbergs Mahlab is a relatively rare spice that is popular in the Middle East and is sometimes known as St. Lucie's Cherry. Mahlab comes from grinding the beige kernels from inside a sour cherry tree that grows wild in the Middle East - the cherries are small, measly looking things with a positively mean amount of black fruity flesh, but the kernels have a sweetly perfumed and floral aroma that is reminiscent of cherries and the nuttiness of almonds. The flavour of Steenbergs Mahlab is nutty with a delicate almondy sweetness and then with a bitterness that you also expect from almonds. Mahlab spice is an essential to Lebanese food and we import ours this straight from the Lebanon. Steenbergs mahlab is part of the Steenbergs range of specialist spices.
The wild black cherry tree is a spreading deciduous tree of the same family as plums and peaches. It grows to 12 metres (36ft) high and has 6cm long (2.5 inches) bright-green, oval, serrated leaves and single, early-flowering white flowers. It develops a green fruit of 10mm (0.33 inches) that ripens to black, whereupon it is harvested. The fruit is dehusked and the central light-tan stone is used as the basis for the spice - this cherry stone is 5mm long (0.25 inches) and tear shaped. These whole seeds are ground to make Steenbergs Mahlab. The aroma of mahlab is familiar with an almond-like, cherry-sweet fragrance that hints at marzipan, while its flavour is nutty but with a surprising bitterness. For further gen on mahlab, check out Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages and Ingredientia.
Mahlab is mainly used in baking and gives an authenticity to Middle Eastern and Turkish breads, pastries and cakes, such as ma'amoul, chorek or kandil rings, you can use it to flavour rice. For tasty recipe try this one at Dirty Kitchen Secrets blogs: Maamoul Middle Eastern cookies stuffed with pistachios, dates and walnuts or Armenian Mahlab Brioches at The Perfect Pantry.