A north-African spice blend from Spice Mountain
Even if you’ve never before heard its name, you may well have unknowingly tasted this blend of herbs and spices, which provides one of the cornerstones of North African cuisine. Its key constituents are cumin, paprika and dried parsley, although the proportions and the optional addition of other spices vary enormously according to the maker and the country of origin.
The inspiration behind the chermoula found at Spice Mountain is Moroccan, in which the classic trilogy is combined with coriander, coriander leaf and cayenne pepper to create a dry spice mix that works wonders with seafood, meat and vegetables.
“It’s a spice blend that you can use to pep up any type of dish,” says owner Magali. “It’s flavoursome, but it’s not overpowering. Cumin and coriander is quite a strong blend on its own, but the sweetness of the paprika makes it gentle, especially when combined with a really fruity olive oil in a marinade,” she explains.
Oil and lemon juice
“Just add a little bit of oil and lemon juice, rub it on your meat and marinade before cooking—the longer the better—or drizzle it over aubergine before roasting and enjoy it in a salad. It is really delicious.”
The possibilities are as endless as the number of recipes for chermoula: tagines, rice, roasted vegetables, soups and even couscous all benefit from a sprinkling of the stuff. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could even try making your own variation—Lesley Holdship makes hers with lemons, cumin paprika, saffron, garlic and chilli, as in this salad of roast sea bass with chermoula and lemon.
Chermoula is also great for a process called ‘blackening’: simply dip your meat or fish in melted butter, apply a generous amount of spice, then pan-sear it in a hot skillet. The inside will be left juicy, tender and richly smoky, while the outer layer will form a dark black crust—a crisp combination of browned milk solids and charred spices.
Radiating exotic smells
It’s pretty popular all year round, says Magali—but it’s particularly sought after during the summer months when the sun is (theoretically) shining and the thought of well-marinated meat and tiger prawns sizzling on the barbecue, radiating exotic smells and the promise of a fine evening are, quite simply, irresistible.