My students often ask me what my favorite cuisine is and invariably I answer Moroccan. I love the taste triumvirate of the hot harissa, preserved lemons, and complex ras el hanout, all pulled together with the sweet addition of a spoonful of honey.
One of these ingredients you must plan for a month ahead of time. Although preserved lemons can be purchased at great cost and with some searching, here is a recipe that can be quickly made at home with items from the supermarket. Please use organic lemons and look for the smallest ones with thin skins. If you can find organic Meyer lemons, I’m jealous; they resemble more closely the lemons that are available in North Africa.
Harissa can also be found, either mail order or at spice shops. Homemade is always best, though. If you have the time and inclination, give it a try.
Ras el hanout, the classic spice mixture of Morocco, is probably best to purchase already made because of the multitude of spices needed to create this unique flavor. If you’d like to make your own, I’ve included my recipe.
- 12 organic lemons
- 1 cup course sea salt
- Cut 6 of the lemons in half, cross-wise, and then on the cut side make a cross almost to the tip of the lemon. Open slightly and fill with salt.
- Place the lemons in a sterilized glass container and cover with the remaining salt. Squeeze the remaining lemons and add the juice to the jar. Press down firmly so that the lemons on the top are submerged.
- Place in a dark cupboard for one month. Shake every few days. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- 8 large, dried chilies such as New Mexico or Ancho
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cumin, ground
- 1 tablespoon coriander, ground
- ½ tsp caraway seeds, ground
- Olive oil to cover
- Soak chilies in cold water for 15 minutes.
- Mash garlic with salt and then add the garlic paste, drained chilies, cumin, coriander and caraway to a small food processor and grind to a paste.
- Place in a jar and cover with olive oil. Harissa will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- 1 tablespoon coriander seed
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon whole black pepper
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon fennel seed
- 12 cardamom, seeds only
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2” piece cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon mace
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 10 saffron threads
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons dried rosebuds
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender
- Roast the coriander, cumin, black pepper, allspice, fennel, and cardamom in a dry skillet until toasted.
- Place all of the ingredients into a spice grinder and process until well ground.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
I’ll have some recipes for Moroccan dishes over the winter. My favorite is the sweet potatoes with dried apricots, almonds, and dates. Of course with harissa, a touch of honey, and preserved lemons on the side. On top of cous cous. Yes, that is Sam playing the piano.