Monday, November 14, 2011

Cooking With Morrocan Spice Mix

Tonight's very fragrant post and recipes are brought to you by the husband. He's been weaving some extra magic in the kitchen since discovering the Morrocan spice mixes at our local Whole Foods (they're also available at most supermarkets- Stop & shop, Shop Rite, etc.). Spray some Arabie and read on:
I can't say that Moroccan spices were part of my childhood palate. As a matter of fact, most of that Eastern European Jewish food had no spices (or taste) at all. The Middle East finally caught up with me with the two newish additions to our spice rack from Frontier Ethnic Seasoning line. Ras El Hanout and Tagine mixes provide a baseline for easy and tasty dishes without the trip to Marrakesh. Here are two of my favorites:  

Majadra (or Mujadara) is a traditional lentil and rice dish that's amazingly simple to make, yet delicious and satisfying. For 4 people cook 2 cups of rice (we use organic long grain brown but any type will do) . This type of rice and dish requires a little extra water, about 1/3 of the usual amount more.
Take 2 cups of pre-cooked lentils or a  package of Melissa’s  (an amazing addition to the pantry. Lentils whenever you need them. Genius) and simmer with a cup of semi-dry white wine,  a tablespoon of olive oil and healthy doses of both Ras El Hanout and Tagine mixes.
When the rice is done and the lentil mixture simmers down (wine is reduced to half), mix them well and Let stand for 5 minutes so the rice has a chance to absorb some more flavor. Add salt to taste. 
Pasta with roasted eggplants – Moroccan style
The secret to this one is the way I roast the eggplants. I like to use the mid-size Italian variety or the long Japanese ones that have less seeds and no bitterness so there is no need to salt them or use any other time consuming method. Get 2 pound of eggplants, cut them to 2 inch slices and then each slice to 2-4 strips depending on the width. Toss with  (at least)1/3 cup of olive oil and spread on a baking pan with the skins facing up. Bake in a preheated oven (400 F) for about 20-30 minutes until the top part browns and the slices are tender. There is no need to flip the slices. The bottoms will be a little brown or even seem burnt (don't panic!) but this is part of the secret of this dish. Add ½ cup of white wine (we like Chardonnay) to the pan and deglaze. For a better texture I get the roasted eggplant slices to a chopping block and chop them up with a chef’s knife to smaller bits.
Add generous amounts of Ras El Hanout and Tagine spice mix to the drunk eggplant (along with salt and more chili flakes to taste) and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
Cook ½ pound of short pasta and mix with the eggplant sauce. With some Parmesan and pine nuts on top, just try not to eat too much.

He's serious about trying to do only a moderate stuffing of face. It's too east to pig out on this stuff. Mumbling that it's healthy will only go so far, but seriously, these are two of my favorite meals.

Art by Marcia of


  1. thank you for sharing these! I've been looking for ways to add vibrancy to vegetables and these should be perfect.

  2. Thank you Gaia for the spice recommendations and yummy recipes! Since taking the step from vegetarianism to vegan Jan 1 of this year, my husband and I have been cooking more and more ethnic dishes and enjoying exotic spices. These recipes look easy and devine! I would enjoy any blogs about food and of my favorite interests! Thanks!

  3. Authentic mujaddara:

    Traditional mujaddara is a simple, medieval rice and lentil dish that is still eaten all over the Arab world. It is usually made with basmati or other long grain rice and it never contains alcohol as the Middle East is predominantly Muslim. If extra flavor is desired, broth may be used, but not wine. As for spices, those vary from country to country, the only traditional ones being salt and pepper--which is admittedly rather blah by our standards. One of the best parts of mujaddara, and a source of flavor, comes from the generous quantity of sliced onions that have been slowly cooked to golden, caramelized sweetness. About half is mixed into the rice and lentils and the remaining half is used as a topping. Mujaddara can be eaten warm or cold and is usually accompanied by plain yogurt.

    This is one of our favorite picnic dishes.

  4. I am salivating now. Both of these dishes sound absolutely delicious. I am a big fan of both lentils and eggplant so I feel the urge to give both a try. I'll have to see if I can find similar seasoning mixes here in the UK.

  5. This recipe looks so tasty and hearty, perfect comfort meal for a cold night. I love anything with lentils and eggplant, must give this a try over the weekend! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. Can I come over for dinner one day? That lentils + rice dish sounded so good! I may have drooled a bit.

  7. Hi Modesty,

    In the Middle East the all purpose spice blend is called Baharat. All ME markets will have a version of it for sale. Although it varies a bit country by country, it is basically a mixture of black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, and paprika. Morocco usually adds some ginger to the mix. It's great in rice, couscous, and vegetable dishes and, for meat eaters, is tasty mixed in with minced meat for kofta. If you can't actually purchase a spice blend like Gaia's, you can easily make it.

  8. Hi Eileen,
    Thank you so much for the information. I did manage to find the Ras El Hanout in one of our Waitrose stores. I wish I had considered the ME spices before as my parents have lived in the Middle East on and off for the last 10 -15 years. I've actually no idea how this didn't cross my mind before as I am always hunting for something to flavour my coucous. I can't wait to get cooking! Thank you again, J.


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