Tunisian cuisine is rich in seafood (especially tuna), couscous, peppers, tomatoes, and aubergine. It uses meat in the form of lamb, veal, and goat. Spices are heavily used for flavor. Tunisian cuisine differs in one major way from other cooking in the region in that Tunisians like their food more spicy. Harissa is a condiment that’s often added for additional spice. It consists of crushed dried red peppers, garlic, and other spices like coriander, cumin, mint, verbena leaves, rose petals, tomatoes, and/or caraway oil. It’s a staple of Tunisian cooking and is added to dishes like falafel, sausage, stews, couscous or soups or meat rubs. Tabil (”seasoning”) also is a spice mix, using 2 large garlic cloves that have been peeled, chopped, and dried for 2 days with ¼ cup coriander, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, and 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper. Pound these ingredients together in a mortar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months (although it will loose its spiciness as time passes).
Tunisia has a great many other spices used regularly in cooking. Thyme and rosemary grow widely and often naturally flavor meats as the animals graze on the spices in the fields where they are raised. Fish is often spiced with cumin when grilled and one of the national specialties, Mloukhia, is prepared with bay leaves. Stews are thickened with corete and one of the favored ways to spice when preparing lamb is rubbing it with olive oil, salt, fresh mint, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. As in most Arabic/North African cuisine, coriander, cumin, saffron, and sumac are very popular and are used in many dishes. Caraway seeds are often used to get spice into the dish, as are chili peppers.