Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spice shop discovery: Ras El Hanout

Ras El Delicious

There’s an entire section of Chef Tools’ warehouse devoted to spices, sugars and dried peppers – it’s like our own little spice shop. I was combing through this section recently and, among exotic sea salts and sugar decorations, I found a stash of Ras El Hanout

I didn’t know what it was when I saw it, which is probably why it was attractive to me. The jar advertises it as a “classic blend” of spices from Morocco.  Local Seattle spice company India Tree distributes it and it contains: all spice, black pepper, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, rosebuds and cloves. 

I did a little research and found that this stuff is good on almost anything. There are recipes that describe adding it to coffee or tea, using it as a rub for meat or infusing it in rice or couscous. What’s more, the ingredients seem to expand and contract at the whims of the chef. 

Apparently, Ras El Hanout means “top of the shop” (or “head of the shop”) in Arabic, which means that it’s a blend of all the best spices from the spice shop.  Some recipes contain anise, saffron or simple salt. Whatever the blend, it smells delicious and there are literally hundreds of different recipes out there – at least on the Internet – for this stuff. 

Does anyone out there have any experience cooking with Ras El Hanout? I immediately pictured chickpeas stewing in a Ras El Hanout sauce in a tagine; then served over a bed of steaming rice pilaf. Anyway, from the top of Chef Tools’ little spice shop comes this wonderful little jar of culinary possibilities!
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