Maroque's Ingredients and Spice Guide
Maroque's Ingredients and Spice Guide
Welcome to Maroque's ingredients and spice guide! How often have you seen an ingredient online and thought, "what do I do with that?" Not just "what do I do with it?" but, "where does it come from, what was it originally used in, and what else can I do with this intriguing ingredient?"
If, like me, part of the fun in trying new spices and ingredients is in knowing a little about them, hopefully this little guide will give an enjoyable light-touch insight into some of the items on my site.
In many cases I have also linked to Maroque recipes that use the ingredient, at the end of the section.
Advieh is a Persian spice mix usually used in rice dishes. The mix will typically contain rose petals, cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. It has a floral flavour of rose petals, overlaid with spicy cinnamon and aromatic cardamom. It can also be mixed into stews, to add a distinctive floral note.
Add a teaspoon into the rice before you cook it for a fragrant, light and rather exotic touch to boiled rice.
2 tbsp ground rose petals
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground cumin
Mix all spices together in a bowl. Store in an air tight container
The argan tree is considered the Moroccan national tree, and is only found in the High Atlas Mountains of south western Morocco, mostly within the Sous Valley. The tree and the area where it grows are protected by UNESCO.
Argan trees cling to the slopes of rough hills thriving between the rocks on poor soil. The iconic images of goats clambering up among their branches are a regular photo opportunity on the road to Agadir.
This small spreading tree, often with a twisted and gnarled trunk, requires no cultivation, can grow up to 10m (33ft) high, and lives from 150 to 200 years.
The production of argan oil, which is still mostly done by traditional methods, is a lengthy process. Each nut has to be cracked open to remove the kernel, and it is said that producing one litre of oil takes 20 hours' work.
The extracted kernels are roasted and ground, then water is added to the mix, separating the oil. About 100 kilograms of nuts are needed for just 1 to 2 kg of oil, and with such a small area for growing; this is one of the rarest edible oils in the world.
When squeezed, the seeds produce a heavy amber to orange-coloured oil. This oil is of great importance to the local Berbers, is widely used as a substitute for olive oil, and is used in hand-made cosmetics and soap.
Argan oil is believed to lower your cholesterol levels, stimulate circulation of the blood, facilitate digestion, and strengthen the body's natural defences. It is reputed to be excellent for your skin and to have anti-aging properties, and is very high in vitamin E. Its taste is similar to hazelnut oil.
Most of the argan oil (including the product we sell) is produced by women's cooperatives that share the profits among the local women of the Berber tribe.
The cooperatives have established an ecosystem reforestation project so that the supply of argan oil will not run out and the income that is currently supporting the women will not disappear. The money is providing healthcare and education to the local women, and supporting the community as a whole.
Try drizzling over char grilled vegetables, forking through couscous or adding in place of olive oil in a salad dressing.
Baharat is the term used for a general spice mixture or blend used in Arab cuisine. It means "spice" in Arabic, and is used as an all purpose spice to season meat and soups. It is also a great addition to lentil dishes, pilaffs and a really useful barbeque rub.
A traditional baharat mixture is often used in the same way as garam masala to give a final flavour boost before serving
2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
A particularly popular Baharat is Lebanese seven spice blend which usually contains
This fiery spice mix is a key ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine, containing chillies, fenugreek, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cardamom. This pungent aromatic mix is key in many stews, and is added to many dishes including Dabo Kolo, an Ethiopian bread-like snack.
Dabo Kolo recipe
250g wheat flour
2 tablespoons berbere
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter , softened (room temperature)
1. If baking, preheat oven to 350°F.In a clean mixing bowl, combine and mix the dry ingredients (flour, berberé, sugar, and salt).
2. Slowly add the water and mix so as to form a thick paste. Remove the mixture from the bowl and knead it on a lightly-floured surface for a few minutes to form a thick dough. Add the softened butter and knead for an additional five minutes. Let the dough rest in a cool place for ten minutes.
3. Divide the dough into handful-size pieces and roll these into long "pencils" not quite as thick as your small finger. Cut these rolls into pieces (scissors can be used), each piece no longer than the width of your finger.
4. Heat an ungreased skillet over a medium heat. Place enough of the uncooked dabo kolo in the skillet to loosely cover the bottom. (They may have to be cooked in batches.) Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically, until they are lightly browned on all sides,
4. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake in a hot oven for twenty to thirty minutes, stirring or shaking the pan a few times to prevent sticking.
5. When done, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Store in dry air-tight containers
Bulgur is usually sold parboiled and dried, with only a very small amount of the bran removed. It has a light, nutty flavour. It is also a main ingredient in tabbouleh salad, and can be used in a pilaf.
Tabbouleh is an Arab salad traditionally made of bulgur, tomato, cucumber, and finely chopped parsley and mint, often including onion and garlic, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt, and traditionally served as part of a mezze.
Taboula salad recipe
170g bulgar wheat
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely diced
170g green onion, finely chopped with the tender green stalks
85g mint, finely chopped, or 2 heaped tsp of dried
120ml fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
A dash of chili pepper, optional
1. Wash bulgar and soak it in hot water until it softens, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Mix bulgar with the rest of ingredients. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
A key ingredient in Jamaican cooking, cane molasses is also used as sweetener in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is often eaten for breakfast mixed with tahini and served with warm bread.
Chermoula is a highly flavoured Moroccan marinade, that is the life saver of boring fish. There are hundreds of chermoula recipes, all different: every Moroccan cook book you pick up will contain at least three versions. It is worth trying several and ending up with a hybrid of your own. Quite a few versions contain preserved lemon.
This is my fresh version. But we do sell a dry spice mix: just add garlic and olive oil.
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
1-2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of saffron threads
4 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of a lemon
1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
Small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1. Place the garlic, cumin, saffron, olive oil, lemon juice, chilli and salt in a mortar and pound with a pestle. Or alternatively put all the above in a food processor and whiz until finely chopped, I have little baby processor which makes this a doddle.
2. Add the fresh coriander and mix in or give an additional quick whiz to combine.
3. Spread the mixture over the fish of your choice and leave to marinade for at least 15 minutes.
4. Makes enough marinade for fish for 4.
Chermoula marinated fish can be grilled, barbequed, baked or pan fried, which ever suits the fish of your choice. Pan fried salmon steaks are good, cod fillets cut into chunks and marinated are great barbequed
The most famous part of North African cuisine, used as the main ingredient in many dishes in much the same way as rice.
Couscous is often referred to as Moroccan, but it is equally used in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
The term comes from the Berber language, where it is called seksou. It consists of small grains, the main ingredient of which is semolina.
Couscous is made in the home, often with many women gathered together, producing large stocks of couscous.
It is made from 2 parts of semolina, 1 part of flour, salt and water. Some handfuls of semolina are put on a plate or on the ground, after which it is moistened with saltwater. What results is moulded in the hand, as flour is added. Gradually small "grains" of couscous are separated.
After performing this process until the right size of the "grains" is achieved, a bit of oil is added. Then the couscous is ready to be used in dishes.
Couscous should be steamed two to three times. When properly cooked the texture is light and fluffy.
The traditional North African method is to use a steamer called couscoussière. The base is a tall metal pot shaped rather like an oil jar in which the meat and vegetables are cooked in a stew. On top of the base a steamer sits where the couscous is cooked, absorbing the flavours from the stew.
The couscous available to buy in the UK has been pre-steamed and dried, and only needs a little boiling water or stock to it to make it ready to eat.
As well as the traditional wheat-based couscous, couscous can be made with a variety of grains; barley couscous has a nutty taste and slightly chewy texture.
Couscous also comes in large grains, called Giant couscous, Israeli couscous or the Arabic name is Moghrabieh. This couscous comes from the Lebanon and is a larger version of the familiar couscous. Each uncooked grain is about 5mm across.
I have found two ways to cook it, either soak in water for about 4 to 5 hours (or overnight) and then use as you would normal couscous, or cook in a pan of just over double the volume of liquid for about 45 minutes. It is great in a salad with finely chopped red onions, peppers and fresh coriander. It does actually work very well added to stews as it absorbs the flavours of the dish.
Dukkah is originally an Egyptian spice mixture. It is often served with Arabic bread that has been dipped with olive oil. The oiled part of the bread is then dipped in the dukkah mix.
The work dukkah comes from Duqqa, the Arabic to pound. The actual composition of the spice mix can vary from family to family although there are common ingredients such as sesame, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. There is also a reference in a 19th century text which lists marjoram, mint, zataar and chickpeas.
100g sesame seeds
100g blanched almonds
50g coriander seeds
10g cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1. Toast all the seeds and almonds together in a hot dry pan. Keep stirring until fragrant.
2. Cool, then coarsely grind with the salt and pepper.
To serve, dip Arabic bread into olive oil, and then into the dukkah
Dukkah is very versatile: mix some into bread crumbs for an aromatic nutty mix, or mix into a savoury crumble topping for a new twist to a winter stew. Or use as a dip for quails eggs, very yummy!
Fabulously good for you! Three times the fibre of brown rice, packed full of vitamins and minerals, very filling (so great for a diet) and low in gluten as the grains are harvested before this develops.
With its nutty, smoked flavours, you'll be wondering where this has been lurking for all these years!
It is well used in the Middle East, especially in Egypt and Lebanon, with recipes dating back hundreds of years.
Freekeh, or Farikah, is a roasted green wheat with a nutty, slightly smoky flavour. It is harvested from immature grains of wheat, which are carefully set alight to remove the outside husks, hence the smoky flavour. Further thrashing and sun drying makes the colour uniform, it is then cracked and the final product resembles a green bulgar.
The smoky flavours of freekeh call for stronger seasonings: cinnamon; cardamom; and fresh coriander are all good. It can be made into a pilaf, used as a stuffing, or makes a great accompaniment to grilled meats. And you can now get it from us.
Ghormeh sabzi is an Iranian herb stew and an important element of Persian cuisine, often said to be the Iranian National dish.
The main ingredients are a mixture of sautéed herbs, consisting mainly of parsley, coriander leek, and a smaller amount of fenugreek leaves. The herb mixture has many variations; spinach is added in some regions.
This mixture is cooked with kidney beans, red onions, chopped chives, pierced dried limes, turmeric and lamb The dish is then served with Persian rice.
The history of Gormeh Sabzi goes back at least 500 years. Sabzi means greenery, and also describes various green herbs. The end resulting dish has a green thick consistency and is highly flavoured with the herbs.
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
700g of lamb diced
200g spring onions,finely chopped
300g cooked spinach, finely chopped
100g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
50g fresh corainder leaves, finely chopped
50g chives, finely chopped
50g fenugreek leaves, finely chopped
juice from one lemon
3-4 dried persian limes,
1 can red kidney beans
Or 100g Ghormeh Sabzi herb mix in place of parsley, coriander, chives and fenugreek.
1. If you are using the dried herb mix, place a sieve in a bowl of water and soak the herbs for 20 minutes. Remove from the bowl and use the herbs as described below.
2. Saute the onion over medium-high heat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown. Add the turmeric, frying another minute, add the meat. Toss well to coat in turmeric, and cook until the meat is browned well on all sides.
3. In a small pan fry the herbs a splash of oil until they are fragrant and deepening in colour. Watch them carefully as they will go bitter if burned. You want them to be a deep, dark green without blackening.
4. Add the fried herbs to the meat & onion mixture, stirring well. Add 300 to 400ml of water. Season with salt & pepper. Add the lemon juice, turn the heat down, and let the whole thing simmer, covered, for 1.5-2 hours, or until the greens are mostly softened. About an hour into the simmer, add the dried limes (any sooner and they will turn the stew bitter), pushing them down into the liquid.
5. Finally, add the drained kidney beans, and cook another 30 minutes. Check your seasoning level, adding more lemon juice if needed.
Serve with rice.
We sell the dried mixed herbs rather than using all the fresh herbs. Substitute 4tbs of herb mix for herbs above.
This spice, commonly known as grains of paradise, melegueta pepper or alligator pepper has a pungent, peppery flavour with a cardamom-like aroma and lingering heat.
The melegueta plant, from which the seeds are used, lives in the swampy habitats along the West African coast. Its trumpet-shaped, purple flowers develop into 5 to 7 cm long pods containing numerous small, reddish-brown seeds.
Grains of paradise are commonly used in West and North Africa cooking, where they were traditionally imported via caravan routes through the Sahara desert. Mentioned by Pliny as African pepper, grains of paradise was a popular substitute for black pepper in Europe in the 14th- and 15th-centuries.
The name grains of paradise is believed to originate from the spice traders in the 14th century, when they sold them as originating in Eden to inflate their price.
Add some to a pepper mill and use in place of pepper.
This is an edible glue and binder, and is an important ingredient in soft drink syrups, sweets, such marshmallows, chocolate candies and edible glitter. It is the hardened sap of the Senegal Acacia tree.
When the sap seeps from the tree and hits the air, it often hardens to form an oval the size of a pigeon's egg. When sold alone, it can be in the form of syrup, powder, oil, chunks, or pellets. It can almost be fully dissolved in its own volume of water.
The sub-Saharan region has been given the name "the gum belt" for its high volume of gum arabic harvested. Sap trappers stimulate its flow by carefully stripping pieces of the bark once a year without injuring the tree. They are then able to extract the sap for approximately five weeks per year, ten years per tree.
It is also the same substance used in print making.
Most recipes for home use, use gum Arabic as a thickening agent and to give texture. I have seen a recipe where it has been used in scrambled eggs.
Harissa is the iconic fiery paste from Tunisia. Traditionally associated with just Tunisian and Algeria it has now spread in popularity across much of North Africa. The word harissa comes from the Arabic "to break into pieces", traditionally done in a pestle and mortar.
A basic harissa recipe usually contains: bird eye chillies, red pepper, garlic, cumin, salt and oil. Caraway is a popular addition, as is a little mint and paprika, and some varieties have rose petals added. The paste can vary in strength from a slightly tingly relish to spread on meats, to a mind-blowing fiery paste that leaves your nose numb.
Great mixed into a marinade with some oregano, garlic and olive oil, guaranteed to liven up couscous: just a teaspoon is all you need. Add a little to Greek yoghurt as a dip with a kick. Why not try our harissa tasting set?
A basic harissa recipe
100g dried hot chilies
8 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp Cumin powder
1 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tsp salt
1. Place the chilies in a bowl, bring some water to the boil and pour over the chilies Leave them to soak for 30-45 minutes. Then remove the chilies from the water and discard their stems. Reserve the water they were soaked in.
2. Place all the ingredients if a food processor or blender and puree adding as much of the chili water needed until you have a smooth paste or grind them together in a mortar and pestle.
Store in a well sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, once open use it in 1 week
Hawaj is a key mixed spice in Yemenite cuisine. Containing cumin, cardamom, black pepper and coriander, this earthy spice blend is used in soups, grilled meats and on seafood.
There is also a hawaj spice mix for coffee which contains cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg.
Hibiscus tea has a tart, cranberry-like flavor, and sugar is often added to sweeten the beverage. The tea contains vitamin C and minerals and is used traditionally as a mild medicine.
Hibiscus tea is made from the petals of the hibiscus flower and is very popular in some parts of North Africa, Egypt and the Sudan.
The tea is popular as a natural diuretic and is also believed to reduce blood pressure.
A tea recipe
2.8 litres water
2cm piece fresh ginger, sliced
100g dried hibiscus flowers
180g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1. Combine water and ginger in a large pan and bring to a boil.
2. Remove from heat and stir in flowers and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Allow to steep for 10 minutes.
3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large, heat-resistant bowl Stir in lime juice and set aside to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve over ice.
Kabsa is a meat and rice dish from Saudi Arabia that is highly flavoured with spices. Traditionally the meat is either barbequed or broiled first, and then incorporated into cooked rice. Many versions with a variety of vegetables and meats exist.
Kabsa spice blend usually contains black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. The blend we sell contains cayenne but no saffron or bay.
It is a fiery spiced blend tempered with citrus notes and is also excellent in marinades and as a meat rub.
Kabsa spice mix recipe
1/2 tsp saffron
1/4 tsp ground green cardamoms
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground dried limes
Mix all spices together and store in an air tight jar.
Kookoo Sabzi is a Persian herb frittata, an egg based dish that is often eaten at the Persian New Year. There are many family versions, and this is a simple one.
Kookoo Sabzi recipe
6 medium free range eggs
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
50g fresh flat leaf parsley
50g fresh chives
50g fresh coriander
50g fresh dill
1 tsp fenugreek leaves
2 tbsp thick yoghurt
1 tbsp plain flour
90g of whole walnuts (optional)
3 heaped tablespoon of dried barberries
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of Maldon sea salt flakes
Black pepper to taste
100g Dried Kookoo Sabzi mix in place of the parsley, chives, coriander dill and fenugreek
1. If you are using the dried herb mix, place a sieve in a bowl of water and soak the herbs to 20 minutes. Remove from the bowl and use the herbs.
2. Roughly chop all your herbs and place in a large mixing bowl, adding your spring onions, seasonings and turmeric.
3. Crack all 6 eggs into the mixing bowl and give the mixture a stir. Add your yoghurt and flour and incorporate well into the mixture. Once mixed, stir in your dried barberries and gently fold in your walnuts.
4. Using a large preheated frying pan on a high heat, add your oil and pour in your mixture and then reduce to a low temperature. It is meant to be around 3-4cm thick and cooked all the way through, but on a more gentle heat, so the eggs don’t burn.
5. After 20-22 minutes of cooking you will need to flip the omelette over. Start by running a spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the frittata. Then cover your pan with a large plate which should cover the edge of the pan and flip the omelette (carefully) on to the plate and slide the uncooked side face down into the pan.
6. Cook for a further 8-10 minutes and turn the omelette onto a plate and slice in a big generous wedge and eat while warm. It can also be eaten cold, and keeps well in the fridge.
We have a dried herb mix that contains spinach, leek, parsley and fenugreek
La Kama is a very versatile spice blend, used like a Moroccan garam masala. Aaromatic rather hot, the blend usually contains five spices; cinnamon, peppercorns, turmeric, ginger and nutmeg.
It has a mellow sweet, peppery flavour, works well as a seasoning for soups and stews, and is an excellent base for tagines. Try some rubbed on chicken.
Preserved lemons are widely used in Moroccan cooking, and essential if your dishes are to taste authentic, but cannot unfortunately be replaced with ordinary lemons or limes.
Moroccan preserved lemons are pickled in brine and have a salty silky taste and texture which is difficult to describe. The peel loses its bitterness and adds a very distinctive flavour to a wide variety of dishes: in many dishes the skin only is used.
Preserved lemons are strangely addictive; stopping using them is more difficult than you think, once you have tried them in a variety of dishes.
In Morocco the thin skinned (doqq) lemon is widely used, along with the tart bergamot (boussera), but any lemon will be fine. Preserving your own lemons is not difficult, but it is time consuming. The recipe below comes from Robert Carrier's A Taste Of Morocco, unfortunately now out of print.
Preserved lemons recipe
16 small ripe lemons, thin skinned if possible
1. Scrub lemons with a stiff brush, then place in a large glass container. Cover with cold water and allow the lemons to soak for 3-5 days, changing the water daily.
2. Drain lemons. Then using the point of a sharp knife, insert knife 6mm/ 1/4 inch from the bud end of each lemon and make four incisions lengthways to within 6mm/ 1/4 inch of the other end. Then cut through incisions in each lemon so that the lemons are cut completely through both sides, but still held together at both ends.
3. Insert 1/4 tsp coarse salt into centre of each lemon, squeezing them open, then arrange lemons in sterilized kilner jars. Sprinkle lemons in each jar with 1tbsp of coarse salt. Add strained juice of 1 lemon to each jar and enough boiling water to cover the lemons.
4. Leave lemons to steep in this mixture for at least 3 weeks before using them. You'll find the salty, oily picking juice is honey thick and highly flavoured this can be used in salad dressings and added to tagines. The lemons will keep in this mixture for up to a year.
5. To use the preserved lemons, remove lemon from jar, and rinse well under cold running water. Cut away pulp from each quarter and discard. Use skin as required in recipes. Never touch preserved lemons in the jar with an oily or greasy spoon, as the fat will spoil the pickling mixture. Don't worry if a white film forms on the preserved lemons in the jar; just rinse off before using.
If you are like me, the above sounds far too much like hard work. We do sell a selection of preserved lemons including the thin skinned lemons.
We also have preserved limes; these are Egyptian in origin and are preserved with saffron and cayenne adding a new zingy dimension to dishes using preserved lemons.
Dark, complex and tangy, dried or Omani limes (see note on Omani limes) have been used in Persian food and Middle Eastern dishes for centuries. Their sour and citrusy taste is similar to a lime but as they are boiled in salty water before being dried in the desert sun for several weeks, they take on a slightly bitter fermented flavour.
This complex mix of flavours goes well in both sweet and savoury dishes: they add a zingy twist to fish and tomato stew; a lime with a different taste to rice dishes; a warming tang to winter fruit salad; and a lift to lamb with herbs.
Don't be put off by their rather shrivelled appearance, skewer a few holes in the lime and drop it into the dish, or use the sliced ones for a stronger flavour. They will add an authentic touch to many Persian dishes
Mahlab is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of the St Lucie Cherry, used for centuries in the Middle East and the surrounding areas as a sweet and sour, nutty addition to breads, cheese, and biscuits.
The taste is quite subtle, with notes of cherry and almond. Some describe it as resembling marzipan, and it is often one of the spices used in Lebanese seven spice.
Mint tea, known as atay bi nahna, is the national drink of Morocco, and is an integral part of Moroccan hospitality.
A steaming glass of the fragrant, sweet, light tea is offered as a sign of welcome. It is drunk in the morning, offered throughout the day while bargaining, conducting business, and at the end of the meal to aid digestion.
A blend of Chinese gunpowder green tea and fresh mint, traditionally sweetened with at least four sugar lumps per glass, it is incredibly refreshing on a hot day.
Tea only arrived in Morocco in 1854 when, during the Crimean War, the blockade of the Baltic sea drove British merchants to seek new markets for their goods and they disposed of stocks of tea in Tangier and Mogador.
At feasts and on special occasions, mint tea making can be an elaborate ceremony: the best green tea is chosen and only fresh spearmint (mentha spicata) is used. A fine silver-plated, bulbous-shaped teapot is selected for brewing and the heavily sweetened tea is poured rhythmically into fine glasses. For additional ceremony, a fresh, fragrant orange blossom or jasmine flower may be floated in each glass.
Mint Tea recipe
300ml (1/2 pint) water
5 tsp sugar
1 tsp green tea
bunch of fresh mint leaves
300ml (1/2 pint) water
5 tsp sugar
1 tsp Maroque mint tea blend
1. Bring the water to the boil. Put the sugar and the green tea with fresh mint leaves (or the mint tea) in a small traditional Moroccan teapot, and add the boiling water.
2. Leave to steep for 5 minutes, serve hot.
A variation on mint tea is saffron tea: less widely drunk but a very pleasant alternative. This tea is a speciality of the southern Moroccan town of Taliouine, the saffron capital of Morocco.
Saffron tea recipe
2 tsp of Chinese green tea
1 tsp of saffron threads
900ml (1 1/2 pints) water
Sugar to taste
1. Rinse the teapot with boiling water. Add the tea and saffron to the emptied pot.
2. Bring the water to the boil and immediately pour into the teapot. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.
3. Pour the tea through a strainer into warm glasses. Add sugar to taste and decorate each glass with a lemon slice if liked and a mint sprig.
For a fascinating insight into the art of mint tea making I recommend reading Traditional Moroccan Cooking, Recipes from Fez by Madame Guinaudeau. This book, originally published in 1958, is by all accounts the first on Moroccan cooking since the 12th century. A very interesting read full of amazing details, it may be less useful as a cookbook unless you are cooking for 10 to 20 people (using a whole goat).
These are a stronger version of our standard dried limes (see dried limes) these limes are soaked in brine for a longer time than ordinary dried limes and have stronger more "dusty" citrus taste.
Orange-blossom water is the stronger of Rose and Orange blossoms water and is distilled from the fragrant blossoms of Seville oranges.
The bitter orange from China was introduced to Spain by the Moors in the eighth century and was planted in the beautiful courtyards of the Alhambra in Granada, and throughout the south of Spain and has became known as the Seville orange.
The orange is favoured for its fresh citrus scent more than its bitter fruit, and its floral water is a popular flavouring in Moroccan, Persian and Arabic cooking.
The trick with orange blossom is to use very little, to give the merest hint of fragrance.
Orange blossom is a delightful match for apricots, figs, strawberries, rhubarb, pears, and dates. Add a few drops to fruit salads, stewed or poached fruit and fruit crepes.
Orange blossom is widely used in Moroccan tagines, add a few drops to Chicken with apricots and almonds, or lamb tagine with dates, for a light and fragrant finish to a dish, these are added just before serving. A few drops are also added to Persian or Arabic rice dishes, where it adds an irresistibly exotic touch.
Try adding half a teaspoon of orange-blossom water to salad dressings. Orange blossom water is a key flavour on Moroccan carrot and orange salad, the sweet, sharp floral mix is iconic in Moroccan cooking.
A thick, fragrant and tangy syrup made from the reduction of pomegranate juice, is a key ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes. The flavour is sweetly tart sourness and adds a similar taste to dishes as lemon juice or tamarind.
Pomegranate molasses has many uses from being simply brushed over a whole chicken before roasting to give a crisp skin and tangy flavour, as a great addition to a herby salad dressing, to being incorporated into marinades where it helps to tenderize lamb and pork.
You can make you own, this is a long and rather messy process
Pomegranate molasses recipe
Squeeze the juice from several large pomegranates then boil the liquid until it has reduced to just two to 3 tablespoons and is thick and syrupy.
Alternatively, take 750ml pomegranate juice, 100g sugar and 125ml lemon juice and simmer until reduced to 250ml.
Or use one of our bottles, it's so much easier.
Lamb and pomegranate tagine (my favourite way to cook lamb shoulder, and the leftovers make the best shepherd's pie ever!)
Ras el Hanout literally translates as 'head' or 'top' of the shop. It fascinates everyone: foreigners and Moroccans alike. It is a very old mixture of many spices, sometimes ten, sometimes nineteen, often over thirty.
The intoxicating aroma is said to have been originally assembled by a nomadic warrior combining all the scents of the countries through which he had passed.
In Morocco the mixture is likely to contain reputed aphrodisiacs, which may add to its local appeal. Each spice vendor will have his own secret blend, varying in price according to the rarity of the ingredients.
Ras el Honout has traditionally been used in game dishes; at Eid el Kebir (festival of the goat) when mrouzia - a sweet lamb dish containing raisins, almonds and large quantities of honey, is made; and of course in majoun, the infamous hashish balls.
Nowadays it is used in a variety of dishes, marinades and rubs, it goes extremely well with lamb, and is a nice addition to small bread rolls.
Should you fancy making your own, this recipe from Paula Wolfert (Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco) is a good mixture.
Ras el Hanout spice mix recipe
4 whole nutmegs
12 cinnamon sticks
12 blades of mace
1 tsp aniseed
8 pieces turmeric
2 small pieces of orrisroot
2 dried cayenne peppers
1/2 tsp lavender
1 tbsp white peppercorns
2 pieces galingale
2 tbsp whole gingerroot
24 allspice berries
20 green cardamom pods
4 black cardamoms.
Grind all the above ingredients together until you obtain a fine mix.
I often add some to the meat balls in Meatballs with tomato and eggs
Dried rose petals are used in rice dishes across the Middle East, some recipes of Ras el Hanout have rose in, and they make a fragrant and interesting addition to savory stuffing. A small amount is often added to marzipan for Moroccan sweets, and they add a decadent touch to meringues.
As early as the third century essences were made from rose petals using fairly crude methods. It wasn't until the 10th century that Avicenna, an Arab physician, discovered how to extract the essential oil from the flowers, and invented rosewater proper.
Its popularity with food quickly spread throughout Europe and into the Middle East making its way into sweet and savoury dishes, many of which are still popular today.
The trick with rose essences is to use very little, to give the merest hint of fragrance.
The result is an intriguing flavour. However, too much and it smells like a garden and is too overtly floral to enjoy with food. Rose and orange blossom essences are interchangeable.
One of the easiest ways to use rose water is to make up a light sugar syrup and add a few drops of rosewater. The syrup can be drizzled over fruit and pastries, or added to drinks.
A few drops streaked through cream, crème fraîche, and custards adds a delightful exotic edge, or a little added to rice puddings, baked semolina or mince meat will add a new dimension. Fruit salads are taken to new heights with the addition of just a few drops.
It is a key ingredient in Turkish delight and baklava, and is famously incorporated into a host of sweet Middle Eastern pastries.
Sabzi polo is a Persian dish of rice and chopped herbs, and is usually served with fish. In Persian, sabz means green, and sabzi can refer to herbs or vegetables. Polo is a style of cooked rice, known in English as pilaf.
A basic sabzi polo recipe
500g Basmati rice
2 bunches spring onions chopped
60g dill weed, chopped
60g parsley, chopped
60g fresh coriander chopped
4 tbls Oil or melted butter
500 ml Stock or water
45g dried mix in place of dill, parsley and coriander.
1. In a large bowl, wash and drain the rice in 2 or 3 changes of water. Add more water to cover and set the rice aside to soak for 1 to 2 hours.
2. If you are using the dried herb mix, place a sieve in a bowl of water and soak the herbs to 20 minutes. Remove from the bowl and use the herbs.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drain the soaked rice and stir it into the boiling water. Return to a boil and cook the rice for 2 to 3 minutes. Then drain the rice, discarding the water.
4. Mix the spring onions, dill, parsley and coriander together. Spread the oil or melted butter over the bottom of the pot you used to boil the rice. Spread one-third of the rice over the bottom of the pot. Next spread 1/2 of the mixed herbs in a second layer over the rice. Spread another 1/3 of the rice in a layer over the herbs and the rest of the herbs over this second layer of rice. Finally, top with the remaining rice and smooth out the surface. Pour the stock or water over the rice and stick 4-5 holes into the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon.
5. Cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil and then with a lid and set over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Then reduce heat to low and simmer slowly for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest another 15 minutes.
6. Gently stir the rice and herbs together with a large fork. Mound in serving dish and serve the crusty bottom (called the tadig) in a dish on the side.
Our dried Sabzi polo mix contains parsley, dill weed, chives and coriander leaves.
Saffron is an integral part of Moroccan cooking and crops up in half of the tagine recipes you look at. It imparts such a unique quality to any dish, and it also happens to be one of my favourite spices.
It is described as the most precious and expensive spice in the world. Saffron threads are the dried stigmas of the saffron flower, Crocus Sativus Linneaus. Each flower contains only 3 stigmas. These threads must be picked from each flower by hand and approximately 170,000 of these flowers are needed to produce 1kg of saffron filaments, taking around 370 to 470 hours (60-odd days) to produce.
Iran is the world's largest supplier of saffron, producing over 80% of the world supply, most of this is exported to Spain, where it is rebranded and sold on.
The harvest period is traditionally from late September to late December. Drying is the most important part of saffron production as this activates the processes which release aroma, colour and flavour.
The spice is graded according to the proportion of red stigmas compared to the yellow or white parts of the flower known as the style. The colour and flavour is in the stigmas, more yellow and white parts result in a lower grade saffron. The highest grade saffron contains only the pure red stigmas, these are cut and separated from the style prior to the drying process, and this enables it to retain its pure red colour and highest flavour.
This type of saffron is called sargol in Iran, the equivalent Spanish name is coupe (meaning cut). Pushal (or la mancha) saffron is not cut like sargol and therefore contains more yellow parts from the style.
Having tried the various grades of saffron, the sargol is far superior and when you look at the various saffrons around, you notice the yellow and white parts in them. We have decided to supply the highest grade sargol saffron as our own Maroque saffron.
Shawarma is the Arabic name for a method of preparing meat. The pieces of meat are put onto a large skewer and cooked by rotation in front of a flame. The meat is sliced into vertical strips to serve, similar to a donar kebab.
The seasoning contains allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, nutmeg and mace.
These spices can also be mixed with oil as a marinade for lamb kebabs.
Sumac is a small shrub and its berries are dried and usually ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice. It has a pleasant tangy taste, with a hint of citrus fruitiness and virtually no aroma.
In Middle Eastern cuisine it is used to add a lemony taste to salads or meat, or to garnish meze dishes such as hummus. In Persian cuisine, sumac is added to rice or kebabs.
Sumac is a key ingredient in the spice mixture za'atar.
Prior to the introduction of lemons, the Romans used sumac as a souring agent.
Tahini or Arabic sesame paste, made from ground sesame seeds and is used in cooking. It is a key ingredient in the cuisines of North Africa, Greece and Turkey, and is produced from hulled, lightly roasted seeds.
Asian sesame paste is made from un-hulled, black toasted sesame seeds, and has a stronger more bitter taste than its Middle Eastern counterpart.
Tahini is a major component of hummus (chickpeas with tahini), but is used in a wide variety of dishes. It is believed to have been first mentioned in a 13th century Arabic cookbook.
Tahini-based sauces are common in Middle Eastern restaurants as a side dish or as a garnish, usually including lemon juice, salt and garlic, and thinned with water.
This simple spice mixture is used as a coating for kebabs throughout West Africa. The raw meat is dipped first in oil or beaten egg and then in the spice mixture. A little of the mixture is scattered over the cooked meat before serving. The sweet peanut is balanced with spice and chilli flavours.
A Tsire spice recipe
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
salt to taste
Grind the peanuts to a coarse powder in a mortar, blender or food processor, then add the ground mixed spice, chilli powder and a little salt.
Use at once or store in an airtight jar, away from heat or light for up to 2 months.
This traditional African meat coating is also excellent simply sprinkled on salads and vegetables.
Tunisian five spice is a richly scented North African spice blend with a moderate sultry heat. Qalat Daqqa makes an excellent addition to lamb tagines.
A basic Qalat Daqqa recipe
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp cloves
1 tsp grains of paradise (Melegueta pepper)
4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Grind the peppercorns, cloves and grains of paradise together, then mix in the nutmeg and cinnamon.
In an airtight jar, the blend will keep for 3-4 months.
Zahtar is the name of a sesame, herb and spice mix, used as a condiment in Arabic cooking but it is also the generic name for a family of Middle Eastern herbs that include oregano, thyme and savory.
The condiment is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or a combination, mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, salt, as well as other spices and is popular throughout the Middle East.
Zahtar was known and used in Ancient Egypt, and zahtar preparations were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.
It is commonly eaten with flat bread, which is dipped in olive oil and then zahtar. It is often combined with a little olive oil and spread on rounds of flat bread, then eaten for breakfast.
In the Levant, there is a belief that zahtar makes the mind alert and the body strong, and Lebanese children are encouraged to eat this herbal snack before their exams.
Delightful sprinkled on labneh (a thick yogurt cheese)
2 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp salt
Grind the seeds and thyme in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle to a coarse texture. Stir in the sumac and salt.
Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Zereshk is the Persian name for the dried fruit of barberry which is widely cultivated in Iran. Iran is the largest producer of zereshk. It is cultivated on the same land as saffron and is harvested at the same time. The thorny shrubs make harvesting difficult.
The berries are rich in vitamin C, with a sharp flavour. They taste like tangy lemony currants and are often used in Middle Eastern and European rice pilaf recipes.
Ideally you need to soak them for 10 minutes in cold water, and drain before use. They make a really interesting addition to a stuffing, or a zingy ingredient in jewelled rice, or can be added to buttered couscous.