Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend: it varies depending on who makes it (everyone has their favourite recipe) and the part of the world it comes from. It can be made from a mixture of spices including cumin, clove, cardamon, coriander seeds, mace, nutmeg, black pepper, paprika and even dried rose petals – the only thing that is consistent is that the whole spices are toasted then ground, often by hand. You can buy it in specialist food shops and online. (If you haven’t got it in your store cupboard brush the salmon with curry paste instead, using the oil from the jar instead of the olive oil in the recipe below.)
4 salmon fillets
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (see recipe below)
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (or any fresh soft herb)
12 cherry tomatoes
12 spears of asparagus
12 new potatoes
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Oil a baking tray that will fit the salmon comfortably with space for the cherry tomatoes.
3. Mix the ras el hanout with the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of coriander and brush on top of the salmon.
4. Place the salmon fillets on the baking tray, scatter the cherry tomatoes around it, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily but is still translucent inside (if it looks dry it is over-cooked so it’s better to check it earlier than 15 minutes – the timing depends on the thickness of your salmon fillets). Just before serving sprinkle the salmon with the rest of the coriander.
5. To cook asparagus, snap the ends where they break easily, pop the asparagus in lots of salted boiling water and cook for about 3-4 minutes depending on thickness. Drain. (You can also roast the asparagus, tucking it in next to the salmon – make sure the baking dish is large enough for the salmon, tomatoes and asparagus or the fish and vegetables will steam. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil before baking.)
6. To cook the new potatoes rinse the potatoes but don’t peel them, place them in lots of boiling salted water and cook for 15-25 minutes depending on their size. They are cooked when you can pierce them easily with a fork. Drain, return to the saucepan, place a sheet of paper towel on top, put the lid on and leave them to dry out while you plate the salmon.
– Instead of plain new potatoes and asparagus (which are both delicious) try serving the salmon with our New Potato Salad with Asparagus.
– If you don’t have ras al hanout and don’t want to make it from scratch chop an inch of peeled ginger or a piece of crushed lemongrass finely, chop a half a red deseeded chilli and mix both with the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, sea salt and coriander and continue with the recipe.
– Curried Salmon Fillets Recipe: Take our suggestion from the beginning of this recipe and brush the salmon fillets with your favourite curry paste and a spoon of oil from the jar, mixed with a little lemon juice, to make the flavours pop. It gives the salmon a great colour and reduces the amount of preparation. Serve with basmati rice and some plain Greek yogurt into which you have stirred a spoon of hot mango chutney.
Salmon En Papillote – Paper-wrapped Salmon Fillets
You can bake the salmon ‘en papillote‘ in baking paper or parchment which is a French method of cooking to seal in the flavour – it makes a lovely presentation when your diners cut open the packages at the table. It also saves you a messy baking dish to clean. (You can use this method with any fish.)
1. Cut four pieces of baking parchment to a size that will fit each salmon fillet, leaving enough paper all round to close the parcels comfortably. Cut out slightly larger-sized pieces of tin foil. Lay the tin foil on a flat surface, place a piece of baking parchment on top, place a piece of salmon on it, drizzle over the ras el hanout dressing, fold the parchment so that it is loosely closed but secure. Close the tin foil loosely but securely (so that the salmon will not leak its juices but not so tight that the heat can’t reach the salmon to cook it).
2. Place the salmon parcels on a baking tray (no need to oil it) and bake on a high shelf in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Let everyone unwrap their salmon parcel at the table.
How to make Ras el Hanout at home
Adapt this recipe to your own taste. It’s important to lightly toast the whole spices in a dry pan to release their oils before you grind them. The turmeric adds colour and is good for digestion but you can omit it if you don’t have any.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground finely)
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon paprika (used smoked paprika for a ras el hanout with smoky tones) or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon edible dried rosebuds or rose petals (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1. Grind all the spices together in a mortar and pestle, spice mill or grinder. Store in an airtight container for up to a month after which time it will lose its pungency.
How to use Ras el Hanout
Add a pinch or more of ras el hanout to olive oil and rub it over a whole chicken before you roast it. Use the same mixture to drizzle over vegetables before you roast them or brush onto mackerel or any oily fish before you fry or bake it.
– Fry the Ras el Hanout in a little oil over gentle heat and add it at the start of cooking when you are making curries, pilav rice dishes or any middle-eastern tagine or stew.