No Moroccan kitchen is complete without Ras el hanout (Arabic: راس الحانوت). What makes this spice mix so interesting is that almost every Moroccan woman will give you a different recipe. And when you buy it from a hanout (small shop) it is the same thing, with each shop having their own secret combination containing over a dozen spices. The name translates as "head of the shop" and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer. There are three types of blends for Ras el Hanout: Lamrouzia, L'msagna and Monuza.
The Magic Mix
There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el hanout. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric. Although some recipes include over one hundred ingredients, some rarely found in Western food, such as ash berries, chufa, Grains of Paradise, orris root, Monk's pepper, cubebs, or dried rosebud. Usually all ingredients are toasted and then ground up together. It would be fair to say that a recipe is often improvised from available ingredients.
So if you would like to make your own, here is a basic recipe that indicates the correct proportions for a traditional mix.
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cardamon
2 teaspoons ground mace
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Make sure that all your spices are well ground. Then mix well and then transfer to an airtight glass jar, and store in a dry, dark place.
When adding the spice to a tagine, the normal amount would be about 1/2 a teaspoon. It is essential for dishes such as Tagine with Prunes and Dried Figs, or Lamb with Prunes.
Ras el hanout is used in almost every kind of food, sometimes rubbed on meat and stirred into rice. It is often believed to be an aphrodisiac, though we are yet to be convinced!.
See all our Moroccan Recipes here: The View from Fez Cookbook