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Category: DIY

Ras-el-Hanout Spice Blend

Have you walked through a spice market in the Middle East or a spice souk in Morocco? If you have, you know how your senses go into a whirlwind and don’t know what to focus on. First it’s the wide array of colours, and then the fragrant aromas start to hit you… all at once.

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I personally have to make a halt to control myself from plunging into each sack of spices. When I open a jar of Ras-el-Hanout, I am automatically transported to a spice souk… it’s like all the spices come together in a perfect medley, which is intoxicating and delectable altogether.

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What is Ras-el-Hanout? It’s a delicious and aromatic blend of spices, typically used in the Moroccan cuisine, especially in tagines. You can purchase it ready-made in many supermarkets or online, but nothing will beat a homemade version, with which you can tinker and adjust to your particular palate. Additionally on the plus side of making it at home is that the spices will not loose their intensity, as you can control the amount you want to make based on how often you will use it.

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Ras-el-Hanout encompasses a powerful bouquet of aromas from India, such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger, with native African flavours, and the delicate perfume of lavender and rose petals. It’s a poetic combination, which will add a very unique character to your dishes.

As I use this spice mix quite frequently, I have made enough to last me a few months. Also, I’ve made it a bit less piquant so I have room to expand on the level of heat when cooking. One word of advice: use the freshest of spices you have available, as that will create the most pungent mix.

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The recipe below is an adaptation from the one in Cocina Marroqui by Ghillie Basan.

Ras-el-Hanout Spice Mix
Recipe Type: Spice Mix
Cuisine: Moroccan
Author: The Saffron Girl
Prep time:
Total time:
Makes about 1 cup.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon anis seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 20 fresh mint leaves, toasted about 5 minutes in the oven at 180C (350F)
  • 2 small guindilla peppers
  • 1 tablespoon edible, dried lavender flowers
  • 20 edible, dried rose petals, crushed
Instructions
  1. Grind all of the ingredients, except the lavender flowers and rose petals, until fine. Depending on your method, the mixture could turn out a bit more coarse or fine.
  2. (I ground my spices in the food processor bowl of my immersion blender. A coffee grinder will probably also work just as well, although you’ll have to do it in batches. A regular food processor may also work. In the worse case scenario, you can hand grind the spices in a mortar and pestle.)
  3. Add the lavender flowers and crushed rose petals to the mixture and blend well.
  4. Place into an airtight container for storage.
  5. This can last for 6 months with the adequate room temperature, although I always use it up way before that time period!

How to Freeze Tomatoes

We very ambitiously bought a 5kg box of tomatoes the other day, as my intention was to make gazpacho. But I’ve been distracted with other interesting dishes and haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, we’ve been using up the tomatoes steadily, but not quite fast enough. And as we are travelling starting this weekend, and I have to use up everything before we go.

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My husband kept requesting that I make a Hollandse Tomatensoep met Balletjes (Dutch tomato soup with meatballs), which I finally did. See the recipe here. But after the soup and the tomato jam, which I made for my shortbread cookie recipe, we still had a lot of tomatoes left! arggghh.. but good argghh. 😉

When speaking with my mother about her tomato soup recipe, I explained my dilemma. Of course, mothers know best, right?  Especially mothers like my own, who are great cooks and very economising in the kitchen. She told me to freeze the tomatoes for later use! Uh, duh.. why hadn’t I thought of that before?

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Anyway, she’s promised to give me her “how to freeze” vegetable book, which she no longer needs or uses.. so I’ll be learning more about this and how and which vegetables are good for freezing.

In the meantime, I took care of my extra tomatoes. This couldn’t be easier! And it’s also a great idea for when tomatoes are in season, to buy them in bulk, freeze them and use during the winter.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • glass or plastic, sealable containers for the freezer (or plastic ziplock bags can also work)
  • a large pot
  • water
  • a knife
  • tomatoes (of course, since we are freezing them, right?)

Please see the “recipe” below for instructions.

How to Freeze Tomatoes
Author: The Saffron Girl
Ingredients
  • glass or plastic, sealable containers for the freezer (or plastic ziplock bags can also work)
  • a large pot
  • water
  • a knife
  • tomatoes (of course, since we are freezing them, right?)
Instructions
  1. Depending on the number of tomatoes you have, you may have to do this in batches.
  2. Take a large pot and fill with filtered water.
  3. Over high heat, bring to a boil.
  4. Turn heat off.
  5. Carefully place the tomatoes inside the water, one by one, with the help of a ladle if necessary, so you don’t get burned.
  6. Let the tomatoes sit in the water for about 10 minutes.
  7. Then pour the contents out over a colander.
  8. Allow the tomatoes to cool enough for handling with your bare hands.
  9. With a knife, peel the tomatoes. This is super easy, since the tomatoes are now “blanched”.
  10. Figure out how many tomatoes you want to place in each container. I used 6 per container.
  11. Cut the tomatoes in half and with your hands slightly squeeze out any juice.
  12. Place into the container, seal and freeze.
  13. They can last months in the freezer.
  14. Simply thaw out when ready to use.

 

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