Spices of Africa
It can be easy to get hung up on the same basic spices when cooking our most-loved meals. Branching out in the spice department with little direction on what foods it pairs best with can result in a colossal failure of a dish. But when we learn how to combine spices and understand appropriate portions to bring life to a dish without it being overpowering, it can change your entire perspective on how you prep your favorite foods. We’ve compiled a shortlist of African-derived spices, along with a few ideas for food to couple them with. Read on for our favorite spices of Africa.
Harissa is a versatile spice that can be incorporated into many dishes. It is generally made in the form of a paste that is slightly spicy or paired with chilies. It can be found in many Middle Eastern and North and West African dishes. Aside from using Harissa to braise meat and fish, you can use Harissa to add flavor to more bland foods such as rice or pair it with yogurt to balance out the acidity and spice. It is also commonly used to add a punch to roasted veggies like potatoes or carrots.
Durban Curry Masala
Durban Curry Masala is a curry derived from India that found its way to the ports of Durban in South Africa. This spice blend meshes red-hot curry with cayenne pepper and other traditional Indian herbs. Due to the extreme level of spice, this one isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you love heat, you can combine Durban Curry Masala with meats like chicken or beef or in a stew to add an intense kick to a veggie or meat dish.
Chermoula is a slightly earthy and mildly sweet spice that originates in Morocco, used to enhance the flavor of certain foods. It can serve as a great addition to couscous or rice. Similar to chimichurri, a sauce made of Chermoula typically contains pungent herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint. Differentiators that make the Chermoula sauce a bit warmer than chimichurri are the addition of cumin and coriander. The sauce concoction can add a savory touch to grilled fish, roasted cauliflower, or squash.
Libyan Chermoula has minor alterations from classic Chermoula. This spice blend contains many extraordinary flavors such as parsley, cumin, tomato, citric acid, and onion to give a flavor-packed punch to simple foods. As with many other African spices, Chermoula blends well with fish. As a sauce, Chermoula is conventionally scooped up with pita or french bread, by hand. Essentially, the Chermoula sauce resembles a chunky salsa that consists of tomatoes, jalapeños, cucumber, onion, and Chermoula herbs as garnish.
Berbere is said to originate in Ethiopia and is as common as salt and pepper in the kitchen. It is composed of chilies, fenugreek, garlic, allspice, and cinnamon, hinting at warm and sweet notes within a layer of zest. You can use it in faro, polenta, and couscous, or soak it up in a lentil soup. If you’re feeling adventurous, Berbere harmonizes well with meatballs, chicken, and chorizo.
This Ethiopian mixture is fiery-hot and showcases the flavors of black cardamom and bird’s eye chilies. It is generally served with raw beef steak tartar and clarified butter. It boasts a distinctive fragrance and tastes fairly sweet, citrus, and warm.
Ras El Hanout
Ras El Hanout is a Morrocan spice blend that gives off woody and bitter notes and is used to infuse meats like smoked lamb, sweet potato, and onion soup, or in a cottage pie with mushrooms, carrots, leeks, and other veggies. It’s a lovely supplement to carrot and chickpea with honey, and also commonly used in chicken thighs to create a classic Moroccan chicken dish. Ras El Hanout is aromatic and offers a glimpse into the world of customary African seasonings.
Now that you’ve been educated on some quintessential flavors of Africa, it’s time to get a little crafty in the kitchen. We hope you enjoy incorporating these delicious spices into your life and get excited about cooking something new