Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ras el Hanout

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I thought I'd offer a little more information about one of the ingredients I've used recently when making Chermoula.

Ras el Hanout is a North African spice blend that literally means "top of the shop". It's very name implies that only the best spices are used and as such, it's also a spice blend that's hard to find a definitive version of. Each shop would have their own secret combination - some with 20 or more ingredients. Some versions would include Spanish Fly which is why Ras el Hanout is considered to be an aphrodisiac!

Australian Chef, Christine Manfield has put out a wonderful book on spice, called oddly enough "Spice" and she lists the following as possible components
cubeb, grains of paradise, black cumin seeds, belladonna berries, allspice, dried rose petals, dried lavender flowers, long pepper, black peppercorns, mace blades, ashberries, nutmeg, green cardamom seeds, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, Spanish fly beetle, salt, turmeric, galangal and cassia.

It's probably not something I'm going to make myself so I would rely on finding a commercially made product that is sympathetically made - but hopefully without any of those belladonna berries, I really wouldn't want to fool around with anything to do with deadly nightshade.

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Here in Australia, I use the Peter Watson blend. It's quite an interesting product, you take one sniff and the aroma of clove appears, sniff again and the scent sweetens with cinnamon. It's almost magical.

For those overseas I've had a look around and found on Amazon some versions, I do quite like the one produced by Blessac - their ingredient list sounds impressive and also the blend by India Tree.

Now what can you do with Ras el Hanout? Well, you can just mix it with a little oil and use it as a easy marinade for vegetables and meat. A spoonful mixed with flour, adds some zip to those flour dusted chicken pieces.

Finally if you would like to experiment with making your own, the following recipe would be a good starting point (in true spirit with this blend, experiment to suit your taste)

2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt

Heat up the seeds and peppercorns in a frying pan. Dry fry until aromatic, about a minutes. Place all the ingredients into a food processor/mill and process until smooth.

Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

7 comments:

  1. Sounds fascinating! Quite a range between the belledonna berries and spanish fly - from death to ecstasy - so to speak. The 'grains of paradise' sound interesting as well. The recipe you listed is not quite so exotic, but I'm going to give it a try!

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  2. Hi Daave

    I suppose it's a problem living here in australia, we don't get all those exotic ingredients and I don't think I'd want to push my luck with customs and try to get them in. I think it's really just about experimentaton, using the best and freshest spices you can find and just develop your own blend. I'm sure you'll come up with something exiting. I look forward to seeing what you do.

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  3. Thanks for this! It sounds very interesting, and I like the idea of each person's mix having their own special slant to it.

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  4. Excuse me for commenting so late on this spice mix...

    We tried it last night as a rub for barbecued chicken (served with couscous, preserved lemons, harissa and steamed cauliflower). Ras el Hanout is FABULOUS!! I know it's going to be one of our staples.

    I don't know if your recipe for Ras el Hanout is close to the commercial version of Ras el Hanout that you buy, but for your sake, I hope it is! This blend really is killer good. Thank you for posting about it.

    -Elizabeth

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  5. Hi Elizabeth - I think if you find a commercial blend that you like then I don't really see the point of trying to make your own.

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  6. Hi!
    Strange when googling one recipe I just stumble upon your blog once again...maybe I should go through them all to see whether there are more I would like to have in my own recipe collection.

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  7. Hi Mona - hope you enjoy surfing the site!

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