Mainly Moroccan: Ras el Hanout - raselhanout

Homemade ras el hanout

If you’ve ever seen photos of Morocco, you’ll be familiar with the piles of vividly coloured spices in the market places. My one-time housemate, on a trip to Morocco a long time ago, brought me a mysterious little bag from one of the piles. She didn’t know what it was, neither did I, but I delighted in trying it out – until the day I discovered that the spice had turned into a wriggling mass of maggots. Not that that would put me off trying the spices, however, if someone should happen to bring me more of them, I think that I’d just look over them more carefully!

My fascination with Moroccan food has continued, despite the maggots, and I’ve been experimenting with a blend of spices called Ras el Hanout from a Kiwi company called Alexandra’s Bazaar. There seems to be as many variations of Ras el Hanout as there are cooks in Morocco to argue about it which didn’t help me when I went looking for a recipe to make my own blend. Paula Wolfert, in Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, got a sample of Ras el Hanout from Fez and had it analysed in New York. That blend had a total of 26 ingredients, including the aphrodisiac Spanish fly and poisonous belladonna leaves. Suffice it to say that I did not intend to going so far so when I discovered a recipe for the seasoning in Greg Malouf‘s Moorish that only had 12, easily obtainable, ingredients I determined to give it a try. Greg calls it Ras al Hanout and, in the introduction to his version in Moorish (he’s got at least two others that I’ve discovered so far) says that this is a humble blend, for daily use. He says that it can be used in soups and tagines, as a marinade, or with rice and couscous.

Ras el Hanout
Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
Coriander seeds – 1 teaspoon
Cardamom pods – 6, seeds only
Fennel seeds – ½ teaspoon
Black peppercorns – ½ teaspoon
Sweet paprika – 2 teaspoon
Cinnamon powder – 1 teaspoon
Turmeric – 1 teaspoon
Cayenne pepper – 1 teaspoon
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Sugar – ½ teaspoon
Allspice – ½ teaspoon

Lightly roast the cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel and peppercorns in a pan over a medium heat. Finely blend with a pestle and mortar then mix with the rest of the ingredients. Store in an airtight jar for up to three months.

Adapted from Moorish by Greg and Lucy Malouf.


Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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