If you are bored of using the same old spices over and over again, or looking for something different and more exotic to add to your spice rack, Ras el Hanout is a tantalising option. It is a spice blend commonly used in North African cooking, and features especially heavily in Moroccan cuisine. Literally translated as “head of the shop”, the Arabic phrase actually refers to the best spices the store has to offer. Most spice merchants will have their own secret blend, but a typical Ras el Hanout contains a mixture of: cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, clove, paprika, nutmeg, mace, turmeric, allspice and peppercorn. Sometimes ginger, fennel, lavender, orris root, chufa, ash berries, dried rosebud, or Monk’s pepper may be added. The result is a very convenient addition to dishes, as you only need to measure out one thing instead of many spices.
Ras el Hanout is not spicy, but has a pungent, earthy, and vibrant aroma and flavour. The cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg also add a sweet accent. It makes a fabulous lamb rub, can be used to roast chicken or flavor burgers and is a flavoursome seasoning in marinades, stews and tagines, or mixed into couscous. Try it sprinkled over popcorn for a savoury snack; or stirred into plain yoghurt as a delicious topping for grilled aubergines or baby marrows, or as a dip.
The health benefits of Ras el Hanout depend on the particular blend of spices used.
Moroccan Baked Eggs
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1tsp Ras el Hanout
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1tsp ground coriander
800g cherry tomatoes, halved
4tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200 C. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Stir in the spices and cook stirring for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.
- Stir in 2tbsp of fresh coriander.
- Divide the tomato mixture between 2-4 individual ovenproof dishes. Break an egg into each dish. Bake for 10 minutes or until the egg whites have set. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes if you would like your egg yolks to be less runny.
- Scatter over the remaining fresh coriander and serve.
This dish will make a scrumptious breakfast, as well as a quick, easy light supper if served alongside a leafy salad.