As many of you know, one of my all-time favourite cuisines is Moroccan. In 2016, I took an unforgettable trip of a lifetime to Marakesh and South Morocco and took a wonderful cooking class in Marakesh where I learned one of my favourite dishes Chermula Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives and of the amazing flavour the blend North African Chermula brings to dishes. Since showcasing this outstanding dish, it’s been a while since i’ve taken you all on a journey to this wonderful culinary corner of the world so I thought it was high-time I delved into my three stand-out blends of North Africa – North African Harissa, North African Chermula and Moroccan Ras el Hanout – and shared with you some of my favourite recipes.
When thinking of Moroccan cooking, you can’t go passed world-renowned chef Yotam Ottelenghi. I’ve cherished many of his books over the years with one of my favourites being his all-vegetarian one: ‘Plenty’. We’re all familiar with the staple meat tagines and one-pot cooks from Morocco, so this book gives a different spin on Moroccan cooking and allows you delve a little deeper into this amazing cuisine and learn some different ways to use their famous spices. Below are a few of my favourites of his from this book as well as a few of my own gems using our three Moroccan blends.
In Plenty, Ottolenghi speaks of how he came up with the recipe as an homage to his aunt and her heavenly leek fritters he grew up eating. In his recipe, he uses a compilation of different spices and so after trialling it a few times, I decided to cut out a few steps and head to one of our blends – given the origins of the dish and the sweet onion flavour of the leeks, our North African Chermula fit the bill perfectly.
Ottolenghi serves his with a yoghurt dipping sauce made from pain yoghurt, garlic, lemon and coriander, but you can simply serve it with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a dollop of plain yoghurt. I also like to serve this alongside some sliced tomatoes and fresh mint leaves sprinkled with a little Sumac.
The paprika, turmeric, coriander and parsley in this blend add a fragrant sweetness whilst the garlic and salt bring a savoury hint and the black and cayenne pepper add a little kick and stunning deep red colour.
One from my personal repertoire with a little inspiration from Ottelenghi, this recipe uses showcases two of my favourite of these blends beautifully! The Moroccan Ras el Hanout creates an aromatic outer crust whilst the eggplant becomes soft and silky inside. The zingy harissa yoghurt is the perfect picante, cooling finish to marry with the rich, deep notes of the Moroccan Ras el Hanout.
I either serve the two halves as a main meal with some salad or one half alongside some roast lamb or chicken as a side dish. This also makes the perfect dish as a side at a BBQ. If I have, I also love to top these with some pomegranate seeds as a sweet finishing touch.
Directly translated, Ras el Hanout means ‘top of the shop’ meaning it comprises the shopkeeper’s top spices and boy, can you taste it! This blend is the perfect balance of all the amazing spices Morocco has to offer: sweet paprika, cumin, coriander, ginger, cassia, turmeric, fennel seeds allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, cayenne, caraway, galangal and sea salt. As with most of our blends, these cut out the tricky spice blending and balancing and give you an authentic flavour instantly.
Our Harissa blend is synonymous with the authentic paste originating in Tunisia with the addition of some fragrant notes of caraway, mint, chilli, cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic, onion as well as Australian sea salt. It adds the perfect zingy heat to many dishes whilst still being fragrant and aromatic. I use it in a few of these recipes but if you’d like more, Click Here to find some.
Another of my personal creations, this soup is the perfect winter warmer on a cold night and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day. Often I make a double batch and freeze in a container for a future rainy day.
In this soup I use a few simple tricks to add maximum flavour – By roasting the sweet potato and garlic rather than boiling it, it creates a rich, deep caramelised flavour that really adds to the soup; by frying the leeks off well first with some salt, it brings out their sweetness; and by toasting the spice mix off with the lemon juice, it releases the volatile oils in the spices and the lemon juice begins the caramelisation.
You could use this as a starter, however, I find served with some crusty sourdough it’s a hearty meal in its own right and one of my favourite ways to use this ultra-versatile blend!
Another one of Ottolenghi’s hits, this wonderfully aromatic and warming dish makes the perfect winter salad when plates of cold lettuce alongside dishes just don’t satisfy!
The sweetness of the carrots is perfectly complimented by the Morrocan Ras el Hanout and the coriander adds a fragrant touch whilst the vinegar and yoghurt round it all out with a nice zing. I love to serve with some roast lamb rubbed with lashings of olive oil and generous amounts of Ras el Hanout.
In this recipe, Ottolenghi uses some preserved lemon rind, but if you don’t have, simply use the zest of one lemon.
I came up with this dish when I was tiring of the classic roast chicken my kids requested almost every Sunday. The Chermula spice blend adds the most beautiful aromatic, smokey flavour when roasted and creates a wonderfully crispy, flavourful skin. By placing the garlic, lemon and thyme inside the cavity, it not only permeates the chicken with flavour and aroma, but the moisture inside them steams the chicken from within making it super succulent and juicy! Plus, the lemon and soft garlic make the perfect finishing touch to the chicken when serving.
The caramelised onions add the perfect amount of sweetness with the added zing of Sumac that gives the perfect lemony flavour. By cooking them low and slow, it makes an instant chutney that also soaks up all the pan juices from roasting. I serve this usually with some roasted potatoes, a salad or atop some hummus.
I hope you enjoy making some of my favourite Ottolenghi dishes as well as a few of my own that have been inspired by my beloved blends from this region. Give these blends a go next time you’re wanting to get creative with your cooking, I guarantee the wonderful aromas they emit will instantly transport you to a Moroccan souk.