Tunisian Rice with Chorizo from Theresa Carle-Sanders

North African Rice Pilaf from Claire's Apothecary Cabinet

To survive in the 1700s, it was vital ye had knowledge of the local plants and herbs. Some were as deadly as they were beautiful, and only a skilled healer could use them. In Claire's Apothecary Cabinet you'll find 14 different plants that were used to treat everything from warts and corns to heart attacks and infection. If you learned them well, you were invaluable to your clan.

(From Claire's Apothecary Cabinet on STARZ.com)

Claire's Apothecary Cabinet Starz

Those of you who count themselves among the well-informed obsessed fans counting down the days to the television premiere of Outlander will already be familiar with STARZ's newest web destination, Claire's Apothecary Cabinet.

If you haven't had a chance to explore it yet, you're missing out on some fun! Inside, you'll find 14 different plants that were used to treat everything from warts and corns to heart attacks and infection in the centuries prior to the advent modern medicine.

Fennel - North African Rice Pilaf

Amongst Claire's collection of medicinal herbs, you'll find a number that are also at home in the kitchen. Fennel, turmeric, garlic and peppermint found their way into this week's recipe on Outlander Kitchen, and if I had access to ramsons (wild garlic) and comfrey leaves, I would have thrown those into my Dutch oven along with the others.

In addition to physicians, 17th Century cooks knew the health benefits of many of the herbs they used regularly. Fennel as a digestive aid, peppermint as an anti-nauseant, garlic as an immune booster; the list goes on and on.

Remember Aloysius O’Shaughnessy Murphy from Voyager? He was one cantankerous ship's cook, but he also went to great lengths to soothe Jamie's seasickness with his Beef Broth. The caraway seeds in his bouquet garnii are said to calm an angry tummy.


My inspiration for this week's recipe came, as it often does, from an online conversation I had with my friend (and huge Outlander fan) Lori of Little White Apron. She passed on a recipe she found for Tunisian Steamed Rice, and I immediately knew it was perfect for this post.

Well, almost perfect.  I tweaked the original recipe quite a bit, substituting a few of the spices and changing the cooking method significantly. Et voilà! This North African Rice Pilaf from Claire's Apothecary Cabinet was born.


Fresh garlic plays an important part in this dish, and I was thrilled to use the garlic out of my very own garden, which I pulled from the soil a mere 3 days before I prepared the recipe.

Speaking of freshness, make sure even the dried spices you keep in your cupboard are relatively fresh. If you can't remember how long a certain bottle has been there, it's probably best to replace it with a new one. Years-old spices can go rancid and impart a bitter taste to your finished dish.

Whole spices keep better than ground ones. I keep cumin, coriander, fennel (to name a few) as seeds and roast in small batches as needed in a small cast iron pan over low heat, then grind them in the second coffee grinder I keep solely for spices.

(To clean the grinder between batches, pulse a tablespoon of uncooked rice 5 or 6 times, then wipe out the residue.)

North African Rice Pilaf

Please don't let the long list of ingredients for this recipe intimidate you. After the 20 minutes of required prep is done and you've got it all in the pot, sit back, relax and ask your honey to mix some drinks or decant the wine.  Dinner will be ready in under an hour.

You might also be interested in