Ras el Hanout

Each spice shop in Morocco has its own closely guarded ras el hanout, which literally translates as “top of the shop” or “shopkeeper’s choice”. It is a finely balanced mixture of different ground spices, as few as ten or as many as twenty six. Ingredients may include cayenne pepper, pepper, thyme, lavender, rosemary, ginger, cumin, allspice, cloves, fenugreek, cardamom, mace and nutmeg.

Ras el hanout goes well with Moroccan game dishes, lamb, tagine and various rice and couscous stuffings. It is especially used to season mrouzia, a sweet lamb tagine with raisins, almond and honey.

Outside Morocco, you can buy ras el hanout from specialist shops that sell their own readymade ground spice mix. You can also make your own version – try our approximation of ras el hanout below.

Ras el Hanout: Ras el Hanout Recipe

Makes ½ a cup

1 tablespoon allspice berries 
1 tablespoon black pepper corn 
1 tablespoon mace blades 
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds (removed from pods) 
1 teaspoon saffron 
2 crashed sticks of cinnamon 
1 crashed nutmeg 

Mix thoroughly and place in a dry skillet over medium / low heat and toast until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool. Place in spice grinder and then mix in 1 tablespoon ground ginger and 2 teaspoons turmeric. Bottle carefully and store in a cool, dark place to preserve freshness.