Moroccan sauces and spices

Chermoula

(charmoula)

Multipurpose sauce and marinade. It suits everything – whether meat or fish or poultry or vegetables. Chermoula:

  • can be used as a marinade before cooking;
  • can be added to a dish to give it a special flavor (even to savory cookies);
  • can be served as a sauce to a grilled meat or vegetables.

There are 3 types of chermoula:

  1. Green (without paprika and other red-coloured ingredients).
  2. Red (with paprika, sometimes with harissa).
  3. Yellow (with curcuma, sometimes with yellow colorant).

The ingredients of charmoula vary from region to region and from cook to cook. Also it depends on a dish that is cooked. Some recipes require absence of parsley or lemon juice and vinegar.

Nothern style chermoula contains thyme and black pepper. And proportions of parsley and cilantro tend to be 1:1.

The main compound of chermoula includes:

  1. Fresh herbs (cilantro and parsley, proportions – 4:1. 4:3);
  2. Spices (paprika, garlic, cumin, sometimes curcuma);
  3. Olive oil;
  4. Acidic liquid (lemon juice or vinegar).

Chermoula always gives a different result. It serves as an additional flavor that underlines the taste of the main ingredient. For example fresh carrots with chermoula and fresh courgettes with chermoula won’t have a similar taste.

Ras el hanout

(rass el hanut, ras el khanout)

The most popular mix of spices. A secret ingredient of many Moroccan dishes. It seems that Moroccans can add ras el hanout everywhere: in a soup, in a main course, in a dessert and even in some drinks.

Every seller (and every company) has his/its own secret recipe. On my package of ras el hanout that I have bought in Auchan hypermarket is written “Ingredients: blend of natural spices”.

The number of spices ranges from 25 to 40. Even if a seller decides to give you the list of spices, you will never get proportions. Actually it’s much easier to buy a ready ras el hanout mix (in Morocco or via Internet). Too many ingredients and some of them should be cooked or/and ground.

If you are curious to see the list, I have published a recipe from Fez for you.

Rass el hanout package
My pack of ras el hanout – the taste seems to be the same as in dishes of Moroccan restaurants

Harissa

Spicy chili paste. Besides chili harissa contains cumin, garlic, coriander and lemon juice. Tomato paste and bell pepper may be added also. In regions that are close to Sahara desert harissa may have a flavor of smoke.

Olive oil

Is the most common oil in Morocco. But it has a different taste than Spanish or Greek olive oil. As for me, I don’t like olive oil at all, but I can easily consume Moroccan olive oil.

Argan oil

In southern regions of Morocco people sometimes use it instead of olive oil. Argan oil has a light nutty flavor.

Argan oil production
Process of argan oil production

Smen

Salted fermented butter.

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