Cooking at home can be healthier, cheaper, and more fun than getting take-out all the time. However, work and school take up a lot of time, and keeping things simple is necessary if you have a packed schedule. Unfortunately, simple can get repetitive and boring if we don’t take the time to think outside our own box. There’s only so much spaghetti and jarred sauce one can take! Spice blends like North Africa’s ras el hanout, are a really easy way to change the flavor profile of everyday dishes.
Ras el hanout (translated to “top-shelf”) is a basic spice mixture used in North African cuisine, particularly in Morocco, to season savory dishes, including as a rub on meat or fish. The mix normally consists of dry spices like cumin, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, chili pepper, coriander seed, turmeric, mace, peppercorn, paprika, and fenugreek. The result is a smoky, savory-sweet, aromatic mix. Ras el hanout blends can vary by region, and some mixtures include additional items like dried rose petals or fennel seed.
I used ras el hanout to add a twist on an easy and relatively healthy Chinese-inspired beef noodle dish. I kept this dish on the healthier side with whole wheat noodles and a variety of vegetables. Feel free to add your favorite veges or substitute chicken or tofu for beef.
Ras El Hanout Beef with Broccoli and Snow Peas (Chinese-style)
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 bunches of broccoli (florets only)
½ pound of snow peas
1 red/orange bell pepper (sliced thin)
1 ½ pound of sirloin steak (sliced thin)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons ras el hanout*
Zest of one orange
Juice of 2 oranges (about ¾ cups of juice)
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger
4 garlic cloves (finely minced )
*Ras el hanout can be found in specialty food stores, but is also produced by mainstream spice brands. They’re often labeled “Moroccan Seasoning”.
- Bring pot of salted water to a boil. When water comes to a boil, add spaghetti and boil for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, add broccoli florets and cook for remaining time (about 3-4 minutes). Drain and set aside.
- While the water is being brought to a boil, prepare the sauce. Whisk together zest of one orange, orange juice, soy sauce, grated ginger, and garlic. Set aside.
- With spaghetti and broccoli set aside, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat in the now empty pot.
- Add meat to pot once oil is just shimmering. Sprinkle meat with ras el hanout. Brown each side (about 2 minutes each side).
- Pour sauce on top of the meat. Stir occasionally until sauce has reduced down (about 5 minutes).
- Take pot off of heat. Toss in spaghetti, broccoli, fresh snow peas and bell pepper to coat with sauce. The steam from the sauce and spaghetti should steam the snow peas and bell pepper. If the spaghetti is still steaming, I would add the snow peas and bell pepper after the spaghetti has cooled slightly to avoid the snow peas overcooking.
- Serve in individual bowls.