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Ever since the launch of Jerusalem, the cookbook by London-based Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi, Middle Eastern food has been stamped firmly in the mind of UK Foodies. As a result, consumers have become hungry for the exotic flavours and lighter, healthier ingredients that this cuisine offers.  With the restaurant scene experimenting with interesting flavours and mezze style dishes, tahini sales are up 40% and harissa by 62%.

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Last month, our Retail National Account Manager, Helen Maclean, went spice hunting in Tel Aviv, on the lookout for some exciting new ingredients and Middle Eastern inspiration. The Levinsky Market is a five block hot spot for Persian and Balkan delicacies; host to spice shops, delicatessens, bakeries, diaries and fish stores.  Evoking all the senses when walking through this market sums up Tel Aviv’s colourful and troubled past, as well as its vibrant future. As an alternative, Tel Aviv Port Market has a slightly more expensive but unusual offering of fresh fruit and vegetables, mostly locally grown and impossible to find elsewhere.

Scouring the markets in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem, on the hunt for the next big flavour profile reach our shores, Helen found curious mixes of spices, olives and cured fish piled high to the celling.

Here are a few ingredients that Helen found dominating the markets in Israel:

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Coloured veg –  the Friday farmer’s market in the Tel Aviv port supplies a host of innovative colourful vegetables, neon purple broccoli, carrots and black potatoes to name a few, most of which are currently unique to the area and cannot be bought elsewhere

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Za’atar – a tangy mixture of herbs, sesame seeds and salt that is used on everything in Israel, from sprinkling over houmous, flavouring meat and veg and mixing with dough for flavoured bread and pitta

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Baharat – most commonly used as a condiment or seasoning to add heat to dishes, made from a unique balance of spicy, savoury and slightly sweet spices such as black pepper, coriander and cumin

Sorrel – a juicy leaf often used in Israeli soups

Sumac – the fruit of the flowering Sumac plant is ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat

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