To make the dishes of North African cuisine, you may not need to look further than your own spice drawer.
Since North African cuisine has been influenced by a variety of other culinary traditions, many of the spices you keep on hand for Indian, European, and Mediterranean dishes can be combined to create a Moroccan tagine, Ethiopian wat, or b’stilla.
Ground ginger, cloves, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, caraway, and allspice all appear in North African dishes as well as turmeric, peppercorn, saffron and paprika.
Add a few spices and your flavor profiles will jump from familiar to distinctly North African. Small amounts of fenugreek, mace, cubeb (long-tail) pepper, anise seeds, rose petals, and lavender will allow you to make your own berbere , a spice combination made of pan-roasted spices, and ras el hanout, a riotous mixture of sweet spices and peppers with floral notes.
To explore North African cooking, you can start with accessible dishes such as ful medames, a warming dish flavored with cumin, garlic, and a dab of cayenne, or Morocco’s famed chicken tagine, spiked with garlic, ginger, cinnamon and lemon.
For a more adventurous meal, try lamb and cauliflower stew with harissa, a spicy condiment laced with cumin and caraway. Or pull out your berbere and make a classic Ethiopian Wat.
If you’re in the mood for something more experimental, make chicken b’stilla, a dish traditionally made with pigeon or squab and spiced with ras el hanout.
We hope a few spices and a leisurely afternoon will help you stretch your palate and create memorable meal this weekend.