Monday, October 13, 2008

Ras el Hanout

The other great part of my trip to Grand Rapids after Rose's Restaurant and the beautiful fall colors, was a visit to a little spice shop called Spice Merchants East. As soon as I walked in, I was hooked. I had to buy something. I didn't know what, but some interesting spice or spice blend was in order. I ignored the common spices - the cayenne, cumin, turmeric, and ginger. I gazed in fascination at the meat rubs and curry blends, wondering at the difference between the Butcher's Blend and the Steak Rub. I almost bought some Bamboo Rice before I decided it wasn't going to be that good just because it was green. But I wanted to buy something different and unique, with flavors I didn't normally consider. Then I found it: Ras el Hanout. It's a Moroccan spice blend with the following ingredients: Nutmeg, rosebuds, cinnamon stick, mace blade, galangal, chili pepper, green cardamom, black peppercorn, allspice berries, anise seed, brown cardamom, cloves, coriander seed, cumin seed, sesame seed, lavender, and turmeric. Who would think to put those things together? Oh let me just dry some rosebuds and throw them into the pot...
How does one cook with Ras el Hanout? There were directions on the mix but I found a simple recipe on for a beef tagine dish. See below. You can also replace the Ras el Hanout with some other Moroccan spice blend. The recipe is quite simple other than that - I made it on the stove and used dried cranberries instead of plums. Reduce the honey if you don't like things too sweet.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup beef mixture and about 2 1/2 teaspoons almonds)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
* 1 1/2 pounds boneless sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
* 2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
* 1 cup water
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
* 1 1/2 cups pitted dried plums
* 3 tablespoons honey
* 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted


Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add Ras el Hanout; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add beef; cook 3 minutes. Add onions, water, salt, and broth. Cover and bake at 425° for 1 hour. Stir in dried plums and honey; cook 15 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds.

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