Slow-Roasted Moroccan Leg of Lamb; Spices, 101

Herbs and spices, part II.

Last week I wrote about using and combining the most common herbs.

This week I’ll try to do the same for the most common spices.

Herbs are leaves, either fresh or dried.

Spices are the rest of the plant: seeds, stems, roots, bark, buds, berries; and are most often dried.

Spices are very often used in cuisine-specific blends such as curry powder (Indian), harissa (North African) or chili powder (Mexican).

You can buy blends or make your own.

Here is some starting information on what spices work together:

Allspice: Complements root vegetables, tomato-based sauces, roast meats, shellfish, pickles, cakes, pies.  Used in sweet spice blends, curry powders, meat seasonings, tagine blends, jerk seasoning.

Caraway: Complements cheeses, pork, vegetables (cabbage, potatoes).  Used in garam masala, sausage seasoning, tandoori spice blends.

Cardamom, green: Complements pastries, sweet dishes, cakes, breads, rices, curries.  Used in curry powder, garam masala, tagine spice blends, ras el hanout.

Celery Seed: Complements vegetable juices, seafood, eggs, salad dressings, cheeses, poultry.  Used in seasoning blends for roast meats.

Chili: Complements Mexican sauces, Asian stir-fries, curries, almost everything else.  Used in curry powder, taco seasonings, pickling spices, chili powder, all-purpose seasoning blends.

Cinnamon and Cassia: Complements cakes, sweet baked goods, stewed fruits and puddings, curries, Moroccan tagines.  Used in curry powder, sweet spice blends, ras el hanout, garam masala, Cajun spice blends, barbecue spices.

Cloves: Complements cakes, sweet baked goods, stewed fruits and puddings, curries, Moroccan tagines.  Used in curry powder, sweet spice blends, ras el hanout, garam masala, tagine spice blends, Chinese five-spice.

Coriander (seeds): Complements curries, cakes and breads, fruit pies, chicken, seafood.  Used in curry powder, sweet spice blends, ras el hanout, tagine spice blends, harissa paste.

Cumin: Complements Indian curries, Asian red curries, chicken, seafood, rice, vegetable dishes, bread, Mexican sauces.  Used in barbecue spices, curry powders, harissa paste, chili powder, ras el hanout, berbere.

Fennel (seeds): Complements breads, sausages, Malay curries, pasta, tomato sauces, satay dishes.  Used in curry powder, Chinese five-spice, Cajun spice blends, ras le hanout.

Galangal: Complements Thai soups, Asian curries and stir-fries, seafood dishes, sambal paste.  Used in red and green curry blends, redang curry powder, ras le hanout.

Ginger: Complements cakes, sweet baked goods, all curries, Asian stir-fries, red meats, seafood.  Used in barbecue seasoning blends, red and green curry blends, jerk seasoning, curry powders, tandoori seasoning, ras el hanout, sweet spice blends.

Mustard (seeds, powder): Complements pickles, Indian curries, salad dressings, curry powders, meat seasonings, pickling spices.

Nutmeg and Mace: Complements winter squashes, potatoes, meat terrines, cheese sauces, milk and rice puddings, sweet baked goods.  Used in sweet spice blends, some curry powders.

Paprika: Complements roast meats and poultry, stews, hearty soups, legumes, egg dishes, sauces, tomato sauces.  Used in tandoori spice blends, barbecue seasonings, Cajun spices, curry powders, chili powder, ras el hanout, tagine spice blends.

Pepper, black, white, red, green.  Needs it’s own chapter – one of them will complement just about everything and one of them is used in almost any savory or hot spice blend.

Salt: see pepper.

Turmeric: Complements curries, Moroccan tagines, stir-fried chicken, seafood, pickles, rice dishes.  Used in curry powders, ras el hanout, tandoori spice blends.

Next week more on spice blends…

I made a slow-cooked leg of lamb last weekend, loosely based on a recipe from my Moroccan cook book.

It was absolutely the best lamb I have ever eaten….



It was melt in your mouth tender, flavorful, slightly spicy….

Mon mari, who is rather demanding about his lamb, agreed.

The recipe has been updated and re-posted here: Leg of Lamb, Slow Roasted Moroccan Style.

I know I should have taken more photos, after it was sliced, but we were both so busy pulling off bits and exclaiming over how wonderful it was that….

And all the crusty bits in the bottom of the pan?

Me and a spoon!

9 thoughts on “Slow-Roasted Moroccan Leg of Lamb; Spices, 101”

  1. Great Post on spices! I love lamb…wish my hubbie did – he informed me the last time I cooked Lamb chops he just could not bear to eat it any longer knowing how cute they are. I see a baby lamb and say yummm. He gets horrified, well I can’t lie, it is true. I just see deliciousness – like your Moroccan dish here – makes my mouth water!

  2. Katie,
    Today I went to the spice market in Istanbul. What a dissapointment. There were only three or four actual spice shops and all they had was standard premixed blends that were obviously pretty old; they hardly had any aroma to them. I do better by going to my local IndoPak store and buying basic ingredients and grinding my own. I also expected to see a lot more of unusual spices. I could recognize everything they had without even trying to puzzle out the signs.
    BTW, the lamb looks fab. Have had a lot of that here and it’s really really good. Tonight went down by the Med, picked our fish at the fish market and had the associated restaurant grill it. Wonderful, but by no means cheap.

  3. Pam, it was truly the best!
    Ina, when we lived in Ireland, we’d go for walks in the spring…. and gaze adoringly (and hungrily) at all those cure little ‘racks of lamb’ in the fields.
    Val, you are most welcome!
    brassfrog, crushed about the spice market… but the fish – jealous!
    manningroad, cinnamon is one I’m learning to use more… love it so far!
    joey, it was such a good leg….

  4. Only thing I changed was I added 1/2 tsp crushed saffron and 1/4 tsp tumeric.
    Thanks for posting this.

  5. I made your lamb recipe today- and it truly is one of the best lamb dishes ever! Thanks so much. I will make this again.

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