If you like to cook Moroccan or North African food, or if you’re tired of using the same old spice blends over and over again, then one thing you need to add to your spice rack is Ras el Hanout.
Ras el Hanout is a spice blend common in North African cooking, and features especially heavily in Moroccan cuisine. The name in Arabic means “head of the shop” and literally refers to the best spices the store has to offer. While it used to be only available at Middle Eastern grocers, specialty and well-stocked grocers now carry this popular spice blend. Each shop or company has their own unique secret blend, but a typical Ras el Hanout contains a mixture of:
How To Use Ras el Hanout
Ras el Hanout gives a pungent, warm flavor. The cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg also add sweet accents. Since it’s a blend, it’s convenient to use in marinades, as a rub or as a seasoning in moroccan stews (tajine). Moroccans even believe it has aphrodisiac properties.
Moroccan roast chicken on vegetables
- 1 chicken (about 1.2 – 1.4 kg, best if organic)
- 1 – 2 tbsps Ras el Hanout
- olive oil
- 1 small celery root (celeriac)
- 2 parsnips
- 3 – 4 carrots
- 150 g shallots (makes 3 – 4 shallots)
- 350 g cherry tomatoes
- 200 g stoned green olives
- 2 tsps anise seed
- 2 – 3 stems mint
- lime wedges
- Preheat oven to 220° C / 428° F.
- Rinse and peel the celery root, parsnips and carrots. Cut into rough cubes. Peel and quarter the shallots. Rinse the tomatoes and remove the stalks. In a large mixing bowl combine the vegetables, olives and anise seeds with 2 – 3 tbsps olive oil and spread them on a baking tray or other ovenproof dish.
- Rinse the chicken from inside and outside, pat dry and cut along the breastbone. Spread the chicken flat on the vegetables.
- Mix Ras el Hanout with 3 tbsps olive oil, brush the chicken with it and salt. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 220° C / 428° F. Then reduce the temperature to 180° C / 256° F and keep roasting until done*.
- Serve the chicken on the vegetables with couscous or Pita – Bread. Garnish with fresh mint and lime wedges.
*A rule of thumb for cooking poultry are 20 minutes per pound, plus 15 additional minutes. If you use a meat thermometer, check the temperature at the thigh and chest to see if the meat is cooked. The thigh should be 82° C / 180° F, and the chest 71 ° C / 160° F when the meat is done. Check whether the juice of the meat is clear. The easiest way to check whether the chicken is cooked is by sticking a knife into the meat at the joint between the leg and the lower part of the breast. The juices should be clear when running out. If these are pink and milky, the chicken needs more time.