When I say spicy, I don’t mean burn-your-mouth-off-spicy. I mean blow-your-tastebuds-away-flavorful.
The flavor comes from all the aromatics I threw into this soup but mainly from one spice blend called ras el hanout.
What the heck is that?
Wikipedia, help us out.
Ras el hanout is blend of spices from Morocco but also used in other countries in North Africa. The name is Arabic for “head of the shop” and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer. Ras el hanout is used in many savory dishes, sometimes rubbed on meat or stirred into rice.
My little batch of ras el hanout was given to me by my brother and sister-in-law. I love this stuff. Because they’re both geniuses in the kitchen I assumed that they had made this themselves. Turns out, they buy it from a friend of theirs named Karen who blends spices magically together to create flavor wonders. I was hoping to find a ras el hanout recipe on her blog but I couldn’t find one. Instead I found this one which you could mix up.
The great thing about ras el hanout is that it’s really up to you what you want it to taste like.
There is no definitive combination of spices that makes up ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or person may have their own blend. The mixture may consist of over a dozen spices. Commonly used ingredients include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric. Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berries, chufa, grains of paradise, orris root, monk’s pepper, cubebs, or dried rosebud. Ingredients may be toasted before being ground and mixed together.
If you can’t find ras el hanout and/or the individual ingredients to blend up your own, you could substitute garam masala for the ras el hanout.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 - 3 stalks celery with leafy bits, chopped
- 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, bruised and cut into large pieces (3")
- 3" piece of ginger, half chopped finely, half left in a large piece
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 teaspoons ras el hanout
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup red lentils, washed and picked through
- Fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Melt coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
- Add in sweet potato, onion, celery, parsnips, carrots, lemongrass, ginger and garlic. Saute in oil for about 5 minutes, until celery and onion begin to soften slightly.
- Add ras el hanout and stir to coat all the vegetables. Saute an additional 5 minutes.
- Add red lentils and vegetable broth. Stir.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Test sweet potato and lentils for doneness.
- Pick out large bits of ginger and lemongrass and discard.
- Transfer remaining soup in batches to your blender. Blend until smooth.
- Return soup to pot and heat through.
- Garnish with parsley or cilantro, if desired.