Have you walked through a spice market in the Middle East or a spice souk in Morocco? If you have, you know how your senses go into a whirlwind and don’t know what to focus on. First it’s the wide array of colours, and then the fragrant aromas start to hit you… all at once.
I personally have to make a halt to control myself from plunging into each sack of spices. When I open a jar of Ras-el-Hanout, I am automatically transported to a spice souk… it’s like all the spices come together in a perfect medley, which is intoxicating and delectable altogether.
What is Ras-el-Hanout? It’s a delicious and aromatic blend of spices, typically used in the Moroccan cuisine, especially in tagines. You can purchase it ready-made in many supermarkets or online, but nothing will beat a homemade version, with which you can tinker and adjust to your particular palate. Additionally on the plus side of making it at home is that the spices will not loose their intensity, as you can control the amount you want to make based on how often you will use it.
Ras-el-Hanout encompasses a powerful bouquet of aromas from India, such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger, with native African flavours, and the delicate perfume of lavender and rose petals. It’s a poetic combination, which will add a very unique character to your dishes.
As I use this spice mix quite frequently, I have made enough to last me a few months. Also, I’ve made it a bit less piquant so I have room to expand on the level of heat when cooking. One word of advice: use the freshest of spices you have available, as that will create the most pungent mix.
The recipe below is an adaptation from the one in Cocina Marroqui by Ghillie Basan.
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon anis seeds
- 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons cilantro seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 20 fresh mint leaves, toasted about 5 minutes in the oven at 180C (350F)
- 2 small guindilla peppers
- 1 tablespoon edible, dried lavender flowers
- 20 edible, dried rose petals, crushed
- Grind all of the ingredients, except the lavender flowers and rose petals, until fine. Depending on your method, the mixture could turn out a bit more coarse or fine.
- (I ground my spices in the food processor bowl of my immersion blender. A coffee grinder will probably also work just as well, although you’ll have to do it in batches. A regular food processor may also work. In the worse case scenario, you can hand grind the spices in a mortar and pestle.)
- Add the lavender flowers and crushed rose petals to the mixture and blend well.
- Place into an airtight container for storage.
- This can last for 6 months with the adequate room temperature, although I always use it up way before that time period!