Category: Basic Recipes and Sauces
Difficulty: Easy and Quick
Tābil, pronounced "table," is a word in Tunisian Arabic meaning "seasoning " and refers to a particular Tunisian spice mix, although earlier it meant ground coriander. Paula Wolfert makes the plausible claim that tabil is one of the spice mixes brought to Tunisia by Muslim-Andalusi in 1492. I agree with her and it does seem possible that tabil may have developed in their community of Testour, in the Tunisian plains west of Tunis near Algeria. However, although the Muslim kingdom of Granada fell in 1492, the forced conversion of Muslim-Andalusi and other Muslim Spanish did not begin until 1499, and although they departed in small numbers during the intervening years, it was not until 1609 to 1614 that the wholesale expulsion of the Moriscos, Muslim converts to Christianity, occurred, when they left in droves for Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, up to half a million of them. Many of these Moriscos then swelled the ranks of the Barbary corsairs.
Today tābil, closely associated with the cooking of Tunisia, features coriander seeds and is pounded in a mortar and then dried in the sun and is often used in cooking beef or veal. My recipe uses all dried spices except the garlic, which you should air-dry a bit, otherwise replace it with dried garlic.
Yield: Makes about 1/4 cup
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
In a mortar, pound the garlic with the coriander, caraway, and cayenne until homogeneous. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Keep in the refrigerator if using fresh garlic for up to two months or indefinitely if using powdered garlic, although the pungency will decline as time goes by.