The world of spice is a truly varied one – different parts of the world home to unique plants creating thousands upon thousands of combinations.
It can be intimidating especially when you don’t really want to spend £100 starting your collection – which should you choose? Well this is where blends are perfect, pick a country it will be different and indeed Ras el Hanout can be made differently depending on the shop you but it in. The spice section of our local supermarkets is growing, both in individual and mixes – Cajun, Jamaican, Thai, Southern to name but a few, its also encouraging to see the ranges of curries become more authentic to actual Indian recipes as opposed to the bizarre dishes we adopted in the UK. Pastes are also a great option – its perfect for when you are starting out or simply don’t have the spices, time or inclination to make entirely from scratch.
Using Spices & Blends
I’ll pick Ras el Hanout as an easy example – it is now fairly readily available even in mainstream UK retailers – it is also not spiced for heat its more for flavour so they are strong sweet but earthy tones. The ingredients follow this rough list with ratios changing depending where you buy it:
- Ground cinnamon or cinnamon stick
- Ground ginger
- Black peppercorn
- Ground turmeric
- Cardamom pod
- Dried rose petals
You can of course make your own if you are a fully stocked spice lover, although these spices are pretty common save the saffron which is expensive and its understandable. However there is no shame in buying ready made, even better from a shop that blends its own and you will have found a goldmine.
Now if you do want to build a spice collection there is no shame in buying a starter set – you will find that they are often interchangeable between cuisines although its best to think about storage before you start – I have seen many out of control spice collections, I’ve also seen people design their kitchen to include a dedicated cupboard or draw.
Continuing with the Ras el Hanout there are plenty of dishes which suit pretty much all dietary requirements. This list is by no means exhaustive but here are my top five favourite recipes:
- Sabrina Ghayour’s Ras el Hanout Butternut Squash (waitrose.com) – turn this sensational recipe plant based by swapping the Greek yoghurt for a plant based version.
- Ras El Hanout Lamb with Aubergine Pilaf – olivemagazine – For those omnivores among us this leg of lamb recipe is an interesting alternative to a normal Sunday lunch if you like it on the spicy side.
- Ras el hanout chopped salad | Tesco Real Food – I have not tried this recipe personally but it does sound sensational – a vegan spicy chopped salad – what’s not to love?
- Best Hummus Recipe (Plus Tips & Variations) – Cookie and Kate – I’m often cavalier when it comes to making hummus which is foolish – this quick to eat delicious dish needs the time and respect it deserves. One made or procured sprinkle with Ras el Hanout
- Celeriac Purée with Spiced Cauliflower and Quail’s Eggs (thehappyfoodie.co.uk) – when you fancy something decadent Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant Nopi is known for some truly delicious and innovative flavour combinations.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Whether we like to admit it you can put too much spice in and unfortunately once its there removing it is no longer an option so its best to follow recipes and adjust to your taste – bit by bit more or less it will help you build your confidence cooking. There’s a world of different flavours out there waiting to be tried – whether it be east or west, north or south there’s sure to be a flavour profile to fit your palette. Also once you have found one you like I would recommend not using it on everything – you don’t to fall out of love as quickly as you fell into it.
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