If you’ve ever traveled to the north African country of Morocco and wandered its spice souks, you know that there is nothing else quite like it. It is a highly sensory experience with tantalizing aromas and a riot of vibrant colors. You’re greeted by hues of golden turmeric, fiery paprika, warm cumin and other inviting smells and tastes.
In the past, each spice shop owner would have his own spice blend called Ras El Hanout. The recipes were well-kept secrets and varied from shop to shop. The mix could contain as many as a hundred spices. Even today vendors compete to create the most sought-after blends. Harissa, a mixture of chilies, garlic, olive oil and salt, is another Moroccan favorite.
Some of the more common ingredients are cumin, turmeric, coriander, and cardamom. Here’s why you should stock your pantry with there incredible spices.
Cumin is a highly aromatic spice that has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is derived from the seeds of a plant in the parsley family. It is an essential ingredient in stews and tagines. Cumin is also used to season salads, beans, and roasted vegetables. The spice is believed to boost immune health, prevent diabetes and aid in digestion.
The Arabs introduced turmeric to Moroccan cuisine in the 7th century, and it has been a key ingredient ever since. This golden spice has an earthy aroma and imparts the characteristic yellow coloring to some Moroccan dishes. The roots of the Curcuma longa plant are dried and ground to make turmeric. While it is primarily added to tagines, it is also used in baking pastries like Chebakia. Turmeric is rich in antioxidants and contains curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory compound.
Unlike the more common coriander from India, Moroccan coriander is sweeter and has a slight citrus aroma which is milder. It is an essential ingredient in a number of spice blends and is added to tagines, soups, stews, and even desserts. Coriander can help stabilize blood sugar levels, prevent urinary tract infections and even treat fight food poisoning.
Cardamom is another common spice used in Moroccan cuisine. It has a unique, strong taste and a little goes a long way. It is added to sweet as well, and savory dishes and is often found in the Ras El Hanout spice mix. Cardamom can help bring relief from several digestive issues including loss of appetite, heartburn, and irritable bowel syndrome.
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