Since I first discovered and adapted a recipe for this complex seasoning, I have come across dozens more wildly different versions. So, though I still like this recipe, it is obviously flexible and open to personal interpretation. I think of the three herbs, the cumin and the paprika as the core of the flavour, though I suspect you could get a good result with just one of the herbs too. Chermoula combines brilliantly with grains, especially couscous. A well-balanced chermoula seems to become one flavour, though not one that people can recognise; this can be used as the dominant taste of a couscous dish or in small amounts to act as the base for other spices. A couscous pilaff might start with a light coating of chermoula on the grains, then have whole toasted cumin or coriander seeds, fresh coriander and even fresh chillies added to the mix. These up-front, heady flavours shine out while the chermoula holds the basic tone of the dish. As a guide, one or two dessertspoons per person will liven up any couscous or rice dish.
PUT THE CUMIN and fennel seeds in a heavy frying pan over a low heat for a few minutes until lightly toasted, then grind them in an electric grinder or a mortar and pestle. Put the herbs and garlic in a food processor and chop them finely, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend them briefly to a thickish pesto-like consistency.
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