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Ras el hanout is to Moroccan and North African cooking what garam masala is to the Indian kitchen. Translated, ras el hanout means the ‘top of the shop’, indicating that it’s the best of everything in the spice merchant’s wares.
Ras el hanout recipe
Ras el hanout is used flavour savoury dishes, such as my tagine with seitan, prunes, and cashews and my Moroccan vegetable tagine.
As with almost all spice blends around the world, there’s no one definitive recipe – instead, merchants and cooks tailor their blends to their own – and their customers’ – tastes.
How many spices are in ras el hanout?
There is a school of thought which claims that ras el hanout must contain a dozen different spices but to be honest, when I was living in Morocco, not one person, whether home cook, restaurateur, or merchant, agreed with this assessment!
Which spices are in ras el hanout?
Having said that, common ingredients are cardamom, coriander, cumin, cayenne (or chilli), turmeric, paprika (sweet, hot, or both), pepper (black, white, or both), and sweet spices such as ginger, cloves, anise, and nutmeg.
Depending on geographical location, some blends may use different types of pepper, including long pepper (yum!) and grains of paradise. Galangal may be used instead of ginger, and for something truly exotic, a few dried rosebuds may be added too.
As with garam masala, whole spices are generally lightly toasted before grinding, or pounding in a mortar and pestle.
Here are three ras el hanout blends that I use – feel free to adjust the amounts of the individual spices for your own taste.