If you’ve got your hands on a tin of Rooted Spice’s Ras El Hanout and you’re wondering where to begin, then I urge you to start with some spiced lamb mince.
In my humble opinion, when cooking with lamb mince (unless it’s for a shepherd’s pie), spices make a great addition. Lamb mince has a bold flavour which makes it a brilliant vehicle for spices. Also, lamb mince is a popular choice in Middle Eastern cuisine (pork is banned in Islam), so a whack of fragrant and aromatic Ras El Hanout (which means ‘top of the shop’ in Arabic) feels like a natural addition.
Once you’ve made a batch of spiced mince, then the options are endless. There’s rarely a ‘plain carb’ in Middle Eastern cookery – everything is ‘jewelled’, spiced and laden with fresh herbs. So one option is to get creative with a traditional bulgur wheat tabbouleh or Persian jewelled rice.
This recipe is, however, inspired by a glut of courgette. Traditionally, a Provençale courgette is stuffed with a drier rice-breadcrumb mixture, but I think that the flavours here are so beautiful – and when served with a mound of hot flatbread to mop up the spiced sauce, it’s an utter delight.
In keeping with the Middle Eastern tradition of ‘jeweling’ dishes with pops of colour and flavour, I recommend going big on garnishes. Forget the brown-beige British aesthetics surrounding ‘mince’ and instead heap on toppings: crumbled feta cheese, fresh mint, pops of toasted pinenuts and a dash of crimson-sharp sumac.