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a trip to Morocco

For years Morocco has held a fascination for me. Some of that – no doubt – is because of how outside of my own experience nearly every aspect of Moroccan life is. Visually, completely captivating! (I imagine a long-lasting dent in my face where my camera goes.) Food, richly colored, and complexly perfumed and flavored with “exotic” spices. Aromas that nearly intoxicate, emanating from food purveyors’ carts. The chords of music played with instruments unlike those in the west and following an entirely different set of “rules” than our own. The sounds of words spoken in a tongue with a non-Romance language root. The intricately painted pottery! The profusion of vividly patterned textiles, for sale in stalls and flowing like brilliantly colored silk streams through the crowded streets! Morocco fascinates me.

~ ~ ~

Like most couples, my husband and I have our disagreements. If he could have less than zero interest in visiting Morocco, then he does. That doesn’t make him contrary – exactly. Different things captivate his interest. And I suspect that the total package of Morocco…the whole of it that I find so intriguing…contains just a little too much unfamiliarity for his liking. So when we dream of where we might one day go, on this one (supremely fascinating) destination, we agree to disagree.

~ ~ ~

So I regret that the closest I may ever come to Morocco is their sumptuous food – which, for the moment, puts me smack dab in the middle of my own kitchen – and brings me to the subject of my next post – and tonight’s dinner – Roasted Chicken Moroccan. I’ll pair it with a simple couscous to sop up some of the flavored juices, and a refreshing delicious salad of oranges, red onions and black olives. (See Moroccan Orange Salad.)  And because I have them, I’ll roast some beets and perhaps come up with some way to Moroccan-ize them! There, take that, my (not-exactly-contrary) husband!

I go into this knowing that most of you will be uninterested in a recipe calling for so many different spices. I get that. If I had to go out and buy them all at once, I wouldn’t be willing to take out a loan to do so. (OK, I exaggerate.) But believe it or not, I happen to have every one of these spices in my spice drawer already, because, as you know, I really love food that tastes like something!

Only one ingredient is called for that I don’t have, and that’s actually a spice blend called ras el hanout, fairly common in Moroccan cooking. Because it’s a blend (much like a curry) it has many versions, some containing as many as 100 different spices! Ras el Hanout means “top of the shop,” which I imagine to mean (perhaps mistakenly) the very best offering the proprietor has to sell. (I wonder if they keep it in exquisitely painted ceramic apothecary jars high up on the top shelf, out of reach of wide-swinging elbows?) You can buy it already prepared, or make up your own with the spices you may already have on hand. I liked the sounds of the following version, so this is where I begin tonight’s dinner. My next post will be on the dinner itself. (Just so you can either breathlessly anticipate – or completely ignore – the upcoming post, I’ll give a list of the ingredients required at the bottom of this page.)

Ras El Hanout– a Moroccan Spice Blend

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 2 ateaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamom
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

Simply mix them all together and store as you would any spices, in an airtight container away from direct light. (And on the top shelf, if that idea appeals to you.)

Ingredients for the roasted chicken with Moroccan spices:

olive oil
fresh lemon juice
zest of lemon
Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ras el hanout
1 tablespoon fresh mint
salt & pepper
cloves garlic
4.5 to 5 pound free-range whole chicken
2 small lemons

~ ~ ~

This post will appear either tonight or tomorrow.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh mercy! Mama, you paint such an exquisite picture. The silk streams, the spices, the scents, the perma-dented face….love it! When can we go?!

    October 17, 2011
  2. Ali #

    You-roccan my tastebuds here! Can’t wait to try this!!

    October 18, 2011
  3. Don #

    If it is indeed true, that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” then I think you may yet get your much hoped for visit to Morocco with JT. These recipes sound fantastic and your writing brings the aromas of spice right off the page! But should the food angle alone prove incomplete, you might bolster it with facts of the rich history of northern Africa. Did you know Morocco was the first nation to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation in 1787? Plus the exciting associated stories of Barbary pirates? He’s gotta love it. You could even try coming in the back door, through the Iberian Peninsula? Or of course the romantic imagery that just the mention of the word, “Casablanca” provokes and, IDK maybe there’s still hope of a visit someday?
    JT is one lucky fellow! And as always, Thanks for the inspiration!

    October 18, 2011
    • Don, LOVED your contribution! And I think you’re right – I’ll just keep plying him sweetly, through his stomach. He’s sure to buckle one day! And if not, we’ll both love the process.

      October 18, 2011
  4. Thank you so much for the kind words today! It totally made my day 🙂 Thank you also for sharing a recipe for ras el hanout, I must give it a go soon! Big hugs, Maria xx

    October 20, 2011
  5. I’m with you on going to Morroco 🙂 of fto check out the rest of the recipe, and fo rme a lonng spice list is never a put off !

    November 6, 2012

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