Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ras El Hanout

Something should definitely be said about the use of spice blends in Middle Eastern countries for their medicinal and culinary value. Some of the world's most medicinal spices are used on a daily basis in countries like Morrocco, Turkey and India. Yet for most of us they never even make it into our pantry let alone our dinner table! Turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are amongst the most beneficial spices and often make it into blends more commonly known as curries. But I'm sure most of us haven't heard of Ras El Hanout which is literally translated from Arabic to mean 'head of the shop'. This spice blend is anti-oxidant rich and highly anti-inflammatory not to mention absolutely delicious!

Ras El Hanout can be made with up to 30 different spices and each household cook would have her or his own variety made uniquely to their liking. Turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are spices that can not be replaced for their nutritional profile is outstanding! Turmeric is probably the most anti-inflammatory agent due to it's active component curcumin which has been shown to reduce symptoms of arthritis while lowering cholesterol and protecting your liver! Ginger follows suit as another powerful anti-inflammatory that supports a healthy heart and offers multiple benefits to your digestive tract. It has been used as an anti-nausea remedy for centuries! Cinnamon is exceptionally high in anti-oxidants and is therapeutic for aiding in blood sugar regulation and preventing diabetes. Cardamom aids digestion, allspice is carminative, cloves aid bronchitis and sinus infections, nutmeg aids cough and sleeplessness, anise is detoxifying, black pepper promotes circulation while red pepper increases metabolism. I like to say that 'spices are the pharmacy in your kitchen' and now you can see why!

Buy high quality spices to ensure you are getting the valuable nutrients they contain. Choose organic and make sure they are bright, potent colors and not dull, fading colors. For the most aromatic experience buy the spices whole like nutmeg and cardamom and grind them yourselves in a coffee grinder!

1T ground ginger
1T ground cardamom
2t cinnamon
2t turmeric
1t ground allspice
1t ground coriander seeds
1t ground nutmeg
1t cumin
1/2t freshly ground pepper
1/2t ground cayenne pepper
1/2t ground anise seeds
1/4t ground cloves

Mix all the spices together in a bowl and add to your favorite dishes! It might seem intimidating to begin including these Indian spices into your diet so be sure to look out for my next cooking class featuring Ras El Hanout in a Moroccan Chicken and Squash Stew! Complete with hands on demonstration, recipe and of course, loads of nutritional information!