Ras el hanout means ‘head of the shop’ in Arabic, intended to star the best spices available – but not necessarily the same ones each time. An off-the-shelf blend will usually feature cardamom, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, turmeric, fennel, chilli, mace and clove, but the recipe varies from region to region and house to house; and you can certainly create your own.
Here I use it as a seasoning for fish (which could also be sea bream or red mullet), while cumin transforms the humble carrot into something extraordinary – an accompaniment that can also be served with meat or in a mix of mezze-style dishes.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
For the carrots
100ml olive oil
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
4-6 medium-sized carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
300ml vegetable stock
2-3 tbsp finely chopped coriander, stalks and all
For the fish
4 portions of sea bass on the bone, weighing about 200g each
a little corn or vegetable oil, for brushing
2-3 tsp ras el hanout
flaky sea salt
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7.
First make the carrots. Gently cook the shallots in the olive oil with the cumin in a pan on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, without colouring, stirring every so often. Add the carrots and stock, season, bring to the boil, and cook on a medium heat until just tender (5-10 minutes), stirring every so often. The liquid should be just coating the carrots like a dressing; if not, turn the heat up and cook on a medium heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile, place the fish in an ovenproof pan or roasting tin. Lightly oil, season well with the ras el hanout and some sea salt, and roast for 15 minutes until the fish is just cooked.
To serve, spoon the carrot and shallot mixture on to warmed plates and place a piece of fish on top.