Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ras el Hanout

This post could have been captioned "Confessions of a Top Chef - aholic."  Yep, my favorite food porn is back in the form of Top Chef Masters.  I watch, dazzled, as the cheftestants prepare gourmet food out of canned goods and penny candy, with nothing but a camp stove and with one hand tied behind their back.  Literally.  (Okay, all of those restrictions are from separate challenges, but whatever ... the point is, the cheftestants are wizards, and I am their humble acolyte.)

Of course, my culinary skills are significantly more limited, my palate less refined.  I consider myself a decent home cook because I can make a passable spinach lasagna and follow a recipe like a champ. 

Still, part of me yearns to dabble in the magical world of the Top Chef kitchen.  Which is why my eyes were inexorably drawn to a jar of ras el hanout on the spice rack at my local Kroger.  I swear for the last two seasons I've seen Top Chef contestants using the Moroccan spice blend in everything from lamb stews to panna cotta.

I couldn't resist.  I bought the jar without the faintest idea of what I would do with it.

Anyway, as soon as I opened the jar and took a whiff, I knew I'd made a good choice.  And I had an inkling of how I would use the spice (with lentils and potatoes).  I served this easy, savory stew with warmed naan.

Lentils with Ras el Hanout

1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced celery
1 Tbs. olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
2 pounds new potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 c. lentils
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock (or water with appropriate number of bullion cubes)
4 tsp. ras el hanout spice blend
1 tsp. salt

Saute celery and onion in the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium (or a bit below) and simmer covered for 35-40 minutes (until lentils are tender).


  1. When my husband wonders why I'm watching yet another cooking show, I tell him I always learn something--and use what I learned (which explains the weird collection of ingredients in my pantry). This past week on Chopped I learned of "crosnes," which some online source said were also called Chinese Artichokes (don't think I'll find them in my local market, but if I ever see them, you can bet I'm buying them).

    Note to self: add ras al hanout to shopping list. (P.S. I fell in love with lentils thanks to Julia Child.)

  2. Lucy, the McCormick's people are a little vague, but they mention cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and red and black peppers. To me, it tasted like a good garam masala. :)

    And Sheila, I'll keep my eyes open for cosnes, too. Sometimes my Kroger surprises me.

  3. I bet this would freeze well for winter nights when there's no time for cooking. Lovely, comforting, and amazingly healthy, too.

    Those cooking shows gets us into trouble! I'm always learning about new things from them.

    ~ Krista