Agriculture, history and the Berbers (Morocco's earliest indigenous inhabitants), have all joined to produce one of the worlds greatest cuisines.
Historically,North Africa was a stopping point on the spice trade route between Europe and the Far East. As a result, North African cooks adopted many spices into their cuisine. The freshness and variety of spices are crucial in North African cooking. People can buy freshly ground spices and fresh herbs in the souks (marketplaces lined with open-front stalls), typically found in the old quarters of cities. Sellers display great mounds of spices, creating a rainbow of colors and delicious array of smells. The markets also abound with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, fish, fresh and dried fava beans and lentils, grains, and jars of olive oil. The souk is a feast for the eyes and nose.
The combination of French and Arabic cooking has given Morocco a delicious cuisine. Spices are the heart of almost every dish. Moroccan cooks use cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, saffron, white pepper, red chili, cloves and sesame to create tasty stews, meat dishes and sweets.
The traditional Moroccan spice mix is ras el hanout. The name, loosely translated, means head of the shop and is meant to represent the very best the spice merchant has to offer. What makes this blend so special is the number of ingredients, sometimes more than 20, and the subtle manner in which all these individual spices merge to form a balanced, full-bodied blend with no sharp edges. Ras el hanout is somewhat curry-like with a spicy, yet floral fragrance and robust, yet subtle flavor. When sprinkled onto chicken and fish before pan-frying, grilling or baking, it gives a golden color and a mild, aromatic spiciness that is very agreeable. Ras el hanout goes well with lamb, game, tagines and couscous dishes.
Try our Moroccan Chicken Ras el Hanout Recipe here.