Sunday, April 02, 2006
Ras el Hanout
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.
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.