Lets talk about Ras El Hanout

My homemade blend 2

In the world of spice blends, Morocco’s Ras el Hanout can be compared with Garam Masala or a curry powder in the sense that it’s a versatile mix of warm and fragrant spices.
However, the comparison stops there. Ras el hanout, garam masala and curry mixes all have different flavor profiles. While the Indian mixes are more on the savoury side of cooking, ras el hanout tends to be floral and sweet.

Ras el hanout is a complex, aromatic spice blend that varies from region to region in the Northern countries of Africa- Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria most often used to season tagines, meats, vegetables and stews.
The literal translation of ras el hanout from Arabic to English is “head of the shop,” but in reality, it means “top shelf,” both terms implying that this is the very best offering in a spice shop. Due to its liberal use in mrouzia, a lamb and honey dish with intense seasoning, ras el hanout is also sometimes called mrouzia spice. Some are spicy and some have no heat at all. If you make your own blend, you can control the heat.

Throughout Morocco, each spice seller (‘attar) has his own secretly guarded recipe; this means that no two versions of ras el hanout are exactly the same and regional differences can be significant. If a family doesn’t buy their favorite mix from a trusted vendor, then it’s likely that they make their own ras el hanout, using a recipe which has been passed down in the family from one generation to another or from one neighbor to another.

Over the last 2 decades I have tried many recipes and some I liked some I felt were lacking. I have tweaked them, adjusted and now have 3 I use.

I might be biased but I prefer the Fassi (Fez) version of ras el hanout. I find it to be well-balanced and I like its floral flair with peppery and earthy tones.

No two versions of this spice blend are the same, so when sampling ras el hanout from different sources, you’ll notice slight flavour variations. At its core, the spice blend isn’t intrinsically spicy unless you intentionally add this flavor profile. Most recipes include cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, various peppers, and turmeric—at times a total of 30 or more ingredients might be used in varying quantities. Some blends could add up to 80 spices, so the beauty of the spice lies in a fluid recipe but also in personal preferences.

The blend is typically prepared by grinding together whole spices, dried roots, and leaves. The first recipe, however, keeps things extra simple by using ground spices you may already have at home. If you’d like to try making a lengthier, more complex and robust version, try using the other recipes with whole spices instead for a bolder and deeper flavor. Note that relatively few Moroccans use this spice blend in daily cooking; instead, the majority reserve it for specialty dishes.

Blend 1
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground anise seed
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Place all of the spices into a bowl and stir to combine evenly.

Transfer the spice mix to a glass jar and store it in a dry, cool place away from heat and sunlight for up to six months. Enjoy it in your favorite meat, tagine, and stew recipes.

Blend 2

2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
11/2 tsp sugar
11/2 paprika
11/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
2 whole dried red chillies
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp ground all spice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dried rose petals

Blend 3

2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp dried rose petals
4 cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne
1/2 tsp Chilli powder

I tend to use Blend 2 more as I have made it spicier…feel free to adjust when you have tried it at least once!

Here are some ideas on how to use ras el hanout:

Use the spice mix as desired to season tagines, with lamb or fish. Chicken Tagine

Rub it on the outside of your favorite meats—ideal for seasoning roast beef, pork, chicken, or to mix in ground meat to make delicious bison, turkey, or lamb patties or meatballs.

Use it on steaks, chicken breast, ribs, and vegetables that are meant to go on the grill.

Sprinkle the mix on roasted vegetables, or add it into stews or soups.

Mix it in with full-fat Greek Yogurt, labneh, or sour cream, to make a dip for crudités, kebabs, or fried foods.

Make the blend fresh for a Tagine.
Don’t make too much..use it within a few months.

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