Ras el hanout is the classic spice mix from Morocco. Much like the idea of an Indian masala the precise spices included in it vary from family to family and shop to shop. The name translates to something like ‘top of the shop’ implying the use of the best spices available. Our mix includes some foraged spices that are ‘top of the shop’ at this time of year and ripe for harvesting right now.
You can use the spice mix in many ways but it works really well in stews and marinades. We used it in a lamb tagine this weekend and it went down very well with our guests.
The foraged ingredients we used in the recipe were Hogweed seeds, Staghorn Sumac, and Rose petal.
Hogweed Heraclum sphodylium
This perennial plant flowers from June to August, growing to 2m tall. It has hairy stems and leaves. The stems are hollow and grooved and usually have greyish purple tints. The leaves are very large at the base of the plant becoming smaller up the flowering stem. Each leaf is made up of usually 5 leaflets these have a coarsely toothed wavy edge making the leaflet look irregular. The flower buds appear encased in a papery wrapper and open in to an umbrella of grey white flowers approx 20cm across.The seeds follow from July onwards first as green discs which dry out to form dry brown seeds as in the photo. Look carefully at the leaf shape to confirm your identification and check that the seed has a cardamom/caraway like scent.
Stag’s horn Sumac Rhus typhina
A small ornamental tree grown in gardens or often planted in public areas. It has multiple branches which look a little like stag’s antlers. The leaves are between 20 and 30cm long, they will turn amazing autumn colours in the next few weeks which is when the tree is at its most beautiful and noticeable. The leaves are made up of many pairs of small pointed leaflets ending with one leaflet that creates a pointed shape. Check the edge of the leaf it should have a serrated edge. At the end of the branch, at this time of year, you will see the dark red fuzzy drupes. These ‘drupes’ are the part of the plant that gives us the spice.
To extract the seeds from the red fuzz we first dry the drupes then rub off the red fluff and seeds. To separate the two we found the easiest way is to whizz the sumach in a food processor and then the seeds fall to the bottom of the bowl and the sumach spice can be collected up ready for use or to store.
Sometimes also grown in gardens – Poison Sumach has smooth edges to the leaflets and has white drupes. This plant causes painful, long lasting skin irritation so as always be sure of your identification.
Japanese Rose Rosa rugosa
The whole look is of robust plant, the shrub is dense and thorny. It grows to about 2m. The leaves are made up usually of 7 heavily veined leaflets. They have a leathery look. It has bright magenta pink single flowers that have the scent of ‘turkish delight’. The petals look like they’re made from tissue paper. The flowers bloom first in June and again in early autumn when some of the rose hips are ripe.
- 1 tblsp Hogweed seeds whole
- 1 tblsp Stag’s horn sumac powder
- 1 tblsp Dried Rose petals
- 1 stick Cinnamon (broken up)
- 1 tblsp Cumin seeds
- 1 tblsp Coriander seeds
- 1 tblsp Fennel seeds
In a heavy bottom pan over a medium heat toast the Hogweed, Cumin, Coriander, Fennel and Cinnamon. Once these spices are roasted and aromatic put them into a spice grinder with all the other ingredients and grind to a fine powder.
Store in jar with a well fitting lid.
Below is the gallery from our Wildfood weekend course 13th-15th September 2013.
Thank you all for coming.