Ras al hanout is a North African blend of sweet and hot spices, finely ground. There’s no definitive list of the spices that are combined—hoanout means “shop” in Arabic, and every shop has its own “top-of-the-shop” variety—but it usually includes ginger, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and cinnamon. Ready-made varieties are widely available and generally fine, but feel free to add to them for your own top-of-the-shop creation. We find that we often need to add a bit more cinnamon when using ready-made varieties.
The celery root puree works well as an alternative to hummus. If you want to make just this to snack on before a meal. With the additional elements, though, it’s a substantial starter or even a little meal in itself, served with some warm crusty bread or white pita.
We like to fry the eggs here—the crispy edges of a fried egg work particularly well with the puree—but soft-boiled also works, if you prefer.
As with many of the dishes in this book, the main elements here can be made in advance, ready to be pu together just before serving and, in this case, before the eggs are cooked. If you make the puree the day before, just cover it with plastic wrap—actually touching the surface of the puree—to prevent its forming a skin. IT’s better at room temperature rather than fridge cold, so bring it out of the fridge at least half an hour before serving.
Reprinted with permission from NOPI by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
First make the celery root purée. Place olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelize. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for another minute before adding the celery root. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, so that all sides are golden brown. Pour over the stock, bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the celery root is cooked through. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves, and transfer to a blender or food processor. Blitz to form a smooth purée before adding the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, cilantro, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. (You can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge—see headnote.)
Put the oil for the spiced cauliflower into a large sauté pan and place over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the ras el hanout and cook for another minute. Pour over 7 tbsp/100 ml of water and stir through for a minute before removing from the heat. Fold in the cauliflower, preserved lemon, almonds, half of the parsley, and 1 teaspoon of salt and set aside to cool.
When ready to serve, divide the purée among six plates. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of oil over each portion, spread the cauliflower on top and sprinkle over the smoked paprika and remaining parsley.
To fry the quail eggs, place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, crack each egg individually into the pan and fry for 30 to 60 seconds. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper, then place an egg or two on top of each portion of cauliflower and serve at once.