Ras El Hanout is a spice blend essential to Moroccan cooking and critical for a traditional couscous recipe. The name translated literally means ‘head of the shop’ for which actual mixtures vary, and in some cases, maybe closely guarded family secrets. A less direct translation is ‘best of the shop’ a savoury combination of as many as 60 spices, ground and mixed together. These are typically found in every ras el hanout; anise, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, mace, nutmeg, ginger, black and white peppers, and turmeric.
In case you missed Nutmeg’s previous post on the background of couscous you can read it here.
Note: Prepare your couscous following the instructions on the package for four people. Including boiling the water, the preparation time for it is typically no more than 10 minutes; you should plan to make the couscous right before serving.
Note: This recipe was previously published in the City Palate Magazine March/April 2014
- 3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 6 pieces of lamb collar (neck), including the bone
- 6 chicken thighs, including the skin
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Tbsp. cumin, ground
- 1 Tbsp. ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend
- 4 cups water
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 turnip, peeled and diced
- 2 zucchinis, diced
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 small Napa cabbage or regular cabbage, chopped
- 6 canned artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 cup chickpeas from a can or bottle, drained
- 2-3 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. harissa, from a can, mixed with a little water
- 1 package instant couscous
- In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium and brown all the meat slightly. Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate.
- Add tomato paste, chopped onion, garlic and spices to the pan; allow the spices to cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Then add the water and turn up the heat until the water boils.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pot.
- Cook for about 15 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the stockpot.
- Add the carrots and turnip and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Taste the sauce at this stage and adjust the spices if necessary.
- Add the chopped zucchini, peppers and cabbage.
- Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the artichokes and chickpeas and salt to suit your taste.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, until your couscous is ready.
- Prepare the couscous according to the package instructions.
- Serve the couscous on a large platter surrounded by the meat and vegetables.
- With a large slotted spoon remove the meat and vegetables and arrange around a central mound of couscous.
- Strain the remaining liquid from the pot and serve in a bowl alongside your meal.
- Serve the harissa on the side.
Food Travel Tags:
Couscous, Head of the Shop Spice, Moroccan, Ras el Hanout, Traditional Moroccan Couscous