We know them from our travels and vacations, these oriental spice mixtures from North Africa and the Middle East, which make dishes taste so wonderfully foreign and yet familiar. Many of these spice mixtures are increasingly on the shelves of our supermarkets – the question arises what do you cook with them?
Ras el Hanout
The spice mixture tastes harmonious and sweetish-spicy. It is very complex and can contain over twenty spices. It is used in dishes with legumes, vegetables and meat.
Ras el Hanout – Make it yourself
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 9 pieces of cloves
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 5 pcs. allspice corns
- 5 pcs. Seeds from cardamom pods
- 2 pieces dried red medium-hot chili peppers
- 2 dried nutmeg blossoms (mace)
Toast these ingredients in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant. Then mortar or grind and mix together with the following powdered spices:
- 1 tbsp paprika powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tbsp nutmeg, ground
- 2 bay leaves, ground
And in the local kitchen? For example, season a beef starter with ras el hanout instead of bay leaves and cloves. This turns the dish into a flavorful meal. Add some orange peel and the warm feel-good taste far from home is perfect. Or how about a mushroom cream sauce refined with ras el hanout, which gives the dish a piquant note.
Ras el Hanout – Inspirations
This mixture of dried thyme and finely nutty, tart spices is often used for hummus, salads, with cream cheese, meat and fish. Translated from Arabic, za’atar means thyme – and this also dominates the taste of the mixture.
Za’ater – do it yourself
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame
- 2 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons sumac
Preparation: Toast the cumin in the dry pan over low heat until fragrant, then grind or grind in a mortar along with the salt.
Dry roast the sesame seeds until golden and mix with the cumin, salt, dry thyme and sumac.
And in the local kitchen? Instead of a Provence herb mix, sprinkle za’atar into the olive oil and lemon juice salad dressing. If you serve this with a tomato and cucumber salad with roasted chickpeas, it tastes wonderfully like the sun on the Lebanese coast. However, the sauce also goes well with other leaf and vegetable salads.
Za’atar – Inspirations
The spicy-hot seasoning mixture made with lots of red chili is mixed with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to form a paste and used as a dip with bread or as the main spice in stews and sauces. It is available as a ready-to-use paste or powder.
Harissa – do it yourself
- 100 g dried red medium-hot chili peppers
- 3-4 large cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp coriander
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Preparation: Deseed the chillies and soak them in hot water for 30 minutes. Roast the spices and grind to a powder. Drain the chillies and mix or grind with all the ingredients to form a paste.
And in the local kitchen? Harissa is great for spicing up tomato sauces. Serve these, for example, with patties made from grated zucchini and add a little sour cream. The harissa tomato sauce also goes well with oven baked and mashed potatoes. A yoghurt sauce refined with za’atar also goes well with this.
The mixture of nuts and spices is often served with olive oil and bread, or used to flavor roasted meat or hummus. Dukkah as presented here is the Egyptian variant. In other countries fewer or no nuts are used.
Dukkah – do it yourself
- 100 g hazelnut kernels
- 100 g almond kernels
- 100 g pistachio nuts
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 3 tablespoons sesame
- 1 pinch of salt
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 200°C. Spread nuts and almonds separately on baking sheets. Roast the almonds for 8 minutes and the hazelnuts for 10 minutes. Shake the trays in between. Toast the cumin seeds and sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat for 3 minutes while turning. Grind all ingredients together.
And in the local kitchen? The nutty aroma of this rather coarsely chopped mixture goes well with roasted oven vegetables, but also with chicken strips or an egg. Another idea: cover one side of a chicken fillet with it and fry it in the pan. Or cream cheese on toast, sprinkle with dukkah and drizzle over some olive oil – it’s so easy and so good.
The spice blend is sweet and fragrant. It is used in Arab countries as a dry or wet marinade and for seasoning.
Baharat – do it yourself
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp allspice corns
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
Preparation: Toast these ingredients in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant. Grind all the spice and mix with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
And in the local kitchen? Marinate chicken breasts with baharat and simmer in chicken stock until cooked. Then tear the cooked meat into pieces. With the broth in which the meat was cooked, cook the rice or freekeh (green roasted durum wheat). Serve the pulled chicken on the side dish and serve with vegetables and roasted nuts – a light and very tasty dish.
Baharat also goes well with fried trout fillets. Sprinkled with a few dried rose petals, they taste oriental like from 1001 nights.
This is how you succeed with your own spice mixture
There are no set recipes for their composition of spice blends. Every country, every region, every spice trader and every family has their own blends. You have to try them to taste the differences or to be able to mix them yourself. Tastes are different and spice mixtures can and should be so individual. For example, if you don’t like cumin, you can reduce its proportion in a blend to lessen the intense flavor. The amounts given for the spice mixtures described are guidelines, there is no right or wrong.
Before spices are ground, they should always be roasted first. The mild heat in a dry pan unfolds the essential oils contained in the seeds and makes them fragrant. However, be careful, too much heat or too long roasting can burn the delicate seeds and make them bitter and inedible.
It’s a good idea to grind and mix just as much spice as you need each time, because ground spice loses its flavor over time.
Mortar or electric spice grinder
A sturdy mortar is the simplest kitchen tool to grind spices by hand. It takes some time and strength to crush certain spices, certain seeds are very stubborn to grind into powder. It’s easier with an electric spice grinder, which is not too expensive. If you enjoy making and mixing your own spices, it’s worth buying. It should be noted that the machine has a powerful motor and is easy to clean.
Radio SRF 1, A Point, February 6, 2023, 11:40 a.m