My overwhelming memory of Fes will be the colors, sounds, and amazing smells emanating from the shops and stalls. Aromatic towers of freshly ground spices fill the air with a potent blend of cinnamon and rosebud, cardamom and thyme, and endless other fabulous aromas.There is one blend of spices considered to be the most important and emblematic of Moroccan cuisine, and it’s known as Ras el Hanout, and is a crucial part of the Moroccan kitchen.
Ras el Hanout, means ‘top of the shop’ or ‘head of the shop’ in Arabic, and represents a unique blend of the very best spices available at any merchant’s shop. This flexibility has resulted in Ras el Hanout becoming perhaps the most complicated and diverse spice blend of them all, in some cases containing up to 60+ spices masterfully combined in one batch.
There is no set recipe for this vibrant mix, though some of the ingredients commonly used include coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cumin, and cardamom. Beyond the fundamentals, the variations are endless, allowing spice merchants and home cooks the freedom to create as simple or complicated a Ras el Hanout as their taste buds desire. Some other common additions include allspice, black pepper, caraway, star anise, fennel, paprika, and chili peppers.
In Moroccan cooking, Ras el Hanout takes on a similar role to Garam Masala in India, and is a versatile and aromatic mixture that is used to flavor the country’s most iconic savory dishes, tagine and couscous.
In addition to giving dishes a rich depth of flavor, it is anti oxidant rich and highly anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are spices that cannot be replaced for their nutritional profile is outstanding! Turmeric is probably the most anti-inflammatory agent due to it's active component curcumin which has been shown to reduce symptoms of arthritis while lowering cholesterol and protecting your liver! Ginger follows suit as another powerful anti-inflammatory that supports a healthy heart and offers multiple benefits to your digestive tract. It has been used as an anti-nausea remedy for centuries! Cinnamon is exceptionally high in anti-oxidants and is therapeutic for aiding in blood sugar regulation and preventing diabetes. Cardamom aids digestion, allspice is carminative, cloves aid bronchitis and sinus infections, nutmeg aids cough and sleeplessness, anise is detoxifying, black pepper promotes circulation while red pepper increases metabolism.
Spices are the pharmacy in your kitchen!!
125g/4½oz green olives
100ml/3½fl oz oliv oil
1 large onion chopped
4 chicken thighs
2 garllic cloves, chopped
1 tsp ras-al-hanout
½g saffron threads
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large preserved lemon, peel only, chopped
3 tsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
Couscous, to serve