by cookbookarabia

Archive for the ‘Spices’ Category

Today’s Ras el Hanout

In Maghreb kitchen, Ras el Hanout, Spices, Syrian kitchen, Za'atar on November 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Oh boy, do we like spices! We just love them.The smell of the souk in Damascus we’ll never forget; the air pregnant with pungent sweet spicy almost musky aromas that make you dream. Once you put your nose in the typical za’atar from Syria it works as an instant time machine: back in the souk in a minute.

It’s because their za’atar is different from most za’atars you’ll find in the Middle East: not only is it a mix of the wild thyme, sumak and sesameseeds they put in a secret mix of cumin and other ‘warm’ spices: this perfume fills the little streets. Another favorite spiceblend is the Moroccan one: Ras el Hanout. You will find this blend in every Moroccan shop, but doing it yourself at home is ever so rewarding. The name says it all: the spiceblend of the shopowner is the translation of Ras el Hanout. So why not take all the freedom we want, in the end this is our shop: so this is how today’s ras el hanout tastes like. Good thing as well as with many things in life: today’s ras el hanout is never the same as tomorrow’s. This time we made a sweet and savory one. The sweet one is full of rose petals, staranise, anise, cinnamon, cardamon, jasmine flowers, fennelseeds. As for quantities, this is just something you need to feel…we are always careful with powerful pungent spices like cardamon or cumin, but it’s just a blend according to your personal private taste, so if you like a certain spice very much, be welcome to add more, just smell and taste with your fingertip if it’s right. The smell is very important. A good starting point is to start with little bits of everything and then add more as you go along. Oh and this time we didn’t have lavender, but that’s very nice to add too. We love to make the chicken stew with this one, and why not use it in spice cookies or even a cake?

The  savoury one we put in cumin (not too much!) grains of paradise, black cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, different kinds of black pepper, pink pepper, pul biber, long pepper and coriander seeds. Great in a lamb stew with fava beans and quinces!

So what do you need? All spices you can find in your larder, a coffee & spice grinder and your nose and tongue!


Spicy solutions for cold nights

In Catalan kitchen, Spices on October 19, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Image: courtesy Sven Benjamins.

Some months ago we made a delicious. veggie tajine for a huge dinner at the Environmental film festival, here in Amsterdam. And finally it became even a vegan version, without any plan to do so. We just followed our tastebuds! It was a very colourfull dish with beetroot, pumpkin, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, artichoke hearts, all golden roasted or stewed with a thick sauce of Turkish paprikapaste, onion and garlic and topped of with generous amounts of a wonderfull spice paste: a blend of roasted almonds, parsley, cuminseeds, fennelseeds, carawayseeds, pimenton, and olive oil, basically a variation on the Catalan picada. Wow, it was just an explosion of taste in our mouth and people were blown away by the dish. We made way to much, so we ended up making doggy bags for everyone, and recently I ran into a girl who was there that evening and told me she had been enjoying the left overs the whole week. Now that’s what we call sustainable! We ourselves loved it so much too we decided to fix it in our weekly culinary column at VIVA magazine…and the recipe was covered as well in the daily newspaper De Volkskrant. And as the weather in this part of the world is getting worse and worse, this is our perfect comfort food.

Here’s the recipe:

Vegetable tagine with picada

2 sweet onions
1 clove of garlic
olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp Turkish pepper paste
1 small butternut squash
1 large sweet potato
1 large waxy potato
2 large carrots
2 turnips
4 young beets
4 artichoke hearts (fresh or frozen if necessary)

the picada:
200 g almonds
oil for frying
1 bunch of parsley
4 tablespoons fennel seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tbsp pimentón
pul biber

Chop onions, garlic and tomatoes. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large tagine or casserole and cook the mixture about 15 minutes, add the paprika paste and some salt. Peel and slice the other vegetables in roughly equal pieces. Add a little water to the onion mixture and simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat. Fry the almonds in a golden brown layer of oil. Drain and cool. Chop the parsley roughly. Roast the spices except the pimentón 1 minutes in a hot dry frying pan. Mix the almonds in a food processor with the parsley, ¾ of the spice mixture, the pimentón to a fine paste and stir vigorously with a little olive oil and season with salt. Spoon the picada generously over the roasted vegetables, sprinkle with pul biber and the rest of the spices.