A Taste of Morocco: Ras-el Hanout

Hello dear reader,

Winter is well and truly here and we have had a few frosts, a day of constant freezing fog and today our second storm with winds close to 100mph.  It is at this time of year that my thoughts turn to hot comforting stews and casseroles, often with some warming spices thrown in to ward off winter colds.

My favourite meat by far is lamb and I will share a favourite Morroccan lamb dish with you in the next week or so.  First though is a quick recipe on how to create that quintessential Morrocan spice Ras-el Hanout.

It has such an amazing array of spices in it that you would think it would be overpowering but the result is a well-balanced rounded spice blend that adds a nice warmth and depth of flavour, enhancing the other ingredients in the dish.

There are a million variations to the mix of spices used in Ras-el Hanout, so just adjust the recipe to those you have or those you prefer.  It is also fun to play around with the mix each time you make it until you have your own preferred blend – remember to always keep a note of what you are putting in – no point in creating the perfect blend and never being able to recreate it!

Ras-el Hanout

For best results, use whole spices and gently toast them over a low heat, tossing by hand – once they are too hot to handle, they are toasted enough.  Then grind them with a pestle & mortar or a spice/coffee grinder.
However, for speed you could simply use pre-ground spices in the mix.  I usually use a mix of those I have to hand.

My latest mix is…

Seeds from 3 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground allspice berries
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Mix everything together and store in an air-tight container for up to a month.  This recipe will yield enough to make my Moroccan lamb dish, plus a couple of extra teaspoons left over for you to experiment with in other dishes.  

Spice blends make an unusual gift for friends and family, especially if you are putting together your own “edibles” hamper.

Have fun, experiment and enjoy!