Ras El Hanout Spice Mix
Ras el Hanout, which is Arabic for "head of the shop", is a spice mix often used as a rub for meats, especially lamb and goat in North Africa and the Middle East. Every spice shop, every restaurant, every home has its own recipe, and it can contain dozens of ingredients. This version contains all the usual suspects. Some recipes use saffron and rose petals, but I think they will just get lost, and saffron is the most expensive food in the world.
It is also used as an ingredient in sauces and marinades, and to flavor rice or cous cous. Some say it is an aphrodesiac. Let me know if it works for you.
Ras El Hanout Recipe
Makes. 1/3 cup
Preparation time. 5 minutes
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons ground cayenne or chipotle pepper
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
Optional. 1 teaspoon ground cubeb berries, hard to find, but its exotic licorice flavor really amps it up.
Beware of double salt jeopardy!
Rubs and spice blends are a great way to add flavor to meat. Rubs almost always contain salt because salt amps up flavor and helps form a crust (click here to read about The Zen of Salt). Brines are also a great way to add flavor as well as moisture (click here to read about The Zen of Brines). Meat that is labeled "enhanced" or "flavor enhanced" or "self-basting" or "basted" has been injected with a brine at the packing plant. Kosher meat has also been treated with salt at the plant. You can use a rub on brined or kosher meats, but beware of double salt jeopardy. A salty rub on top of brined or kosher meat can make it unbearably salty. If you use brined or kosher meat and then a rub, you should make your own rub and leave the salt out of the blend. Also, be aware that the drippings from a brined meat or a meat rubbed with a salty spice blend will probably not need salting, so if you make a gravy from drippings, be sure to taste before you add salt. Remember, you can always add salt, but you can't take it away.
Mix and store in an tight jar in a dark place. Before you use it, put what you need in a small frying pan over a medium heat, no oil, and toast the mix for no longer than a minute. Turn off the heat the moment it becomes highly aromatic. Most of the spices are oil soluble, so oil the meat before you sprinkle it on. Use it generously, but not thickly. It is great on grilled meat, but you can also use it on stew meat or braised meat if you brown it first.
This page was revised 3/10/2010
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