The spice jar I reach for most often in the kitchen is Ras el Hanout. It is a spice blend that literally means "top of the shop” or "head of the shop", because it is the best spice mixture a merchant has to offer. Ras el Hanout usually contains 25-30 ingredients; however some blends contain up to 100 ingredients! It originated in Morocco and is used throughout the Middle East and North Africa to flavor fish, pastillas, couscous, rice, lamb...pretty much anything. The baseline ingredients for Ras el Hanout are usually ginger, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. I order mine from Zamouri Spices , which contains (in addition to the baseline ingredients) grains of paradise, lavender, ajawan seeds, kalajeera, galangal, oris root, rose buds and much more.
A few friends have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so I have been trying out new gluten-free recipes. I recently went to one’s house and wanted to bring over a snack she could enjoy. I decided to make some crackers flavored with Ras el Hanout. Not only are these crackers gluten-free, but the presence of Ras el Hanout means they are loaded with nutritional benefits. With so many spices it is impossible to name all the beneficial properties, but many of these ingredients are great for lowering blood sugar, nourishing the digestive system and preventing inflammation. I also added some nutritional yeast for extra protein, B vitamins and flavor.
1/2 cup sifted gluten-free baking mix of your choice (and extra for dusting)
1/4 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (and extra for sprinkling)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (and extra for sprinkling)
2-4 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix all dry ingredients together well. Stir in the olive oil and then add water one tablespoon at a time. You will know that you have added enough water when a smooth dough forms.
Knead the dough until it is pliable and the ingredients are incorporated. Then, roll it into a ball, wrap in plastic and set aside to rest for 15 minutes. Dust your work area and rolling pin well with the flour.
After the dough has rested for 10 minutes, divide it in half, put half on the floured surface, and sprinkle with flour. Roll it out until it is as thin as possible (one time when I made these, I used a pasta roller to make an especially thin cracker). Cut the dough into squares, or use a ravioli press (as I did here) to make a decorative looking cracker. Prick each cracker in the middle with a fork and place on a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, watching carefully as these can easily over-bake! Remove from the oven and allow them to cool and become crispy. Sprinkle with optional sea salt and Ras el Hanout. After they have cooled, you can keep them in a sealed container. If they get soft, pop them in a toaster oven for a few minutes until they crisp up again. I served these with fresh cheese and sliced heirloom tomatoes. I think they would be great with a dip like hummus.