Ras el hanout is a spice blend used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. Recipes for Ras el hanout—which translates to “head of the shop” or “top shelf” in Arabic, indicating that it features the best of the spice shop—vary from blend to blend. Still, most mixes include black pepper, cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, and nutmeg.
North African purists – yes, they exist – consider Ras el hanout’s kitchen – sink approach a somewhat lazy route to flavour, which is exactly what is needed in our busy lives and why we love it. Its intriguing combination of earthy, floral, woody, warm and sweet notes, none of them dominating or overwhelming, makes it incredibly versatile.
In Tunisia, Ras el hanout tastes milder and almost always includes dried rose petals; Moroccan Ras el hanout often has more kick.
There are endless ways to make this versatile spice blend work in the kitchen, tracking it down isn’t hard African and Middle Eastern shops, good delis and Tesco will have it, and its readily available online.
So, why not warm up the cooler evening with Ras el Hanout!
Some suggestion from us at TCFG, Enjoy!
B’Stilla: B’stilla is a complex savoury-and-sweet pie from Morocco. Traditionally featuring young pigeons, the dish now incorporates layers of Ras el hanout–seasoned chicken and crispy phyllo dough.
Grilled and roasted meats and seafood: Use Ras el hanout as part of a flavourful spice rub or marinade for just about any type of meat or seafood before grilling or roasting.
Tagines: Tagines are Moroccan slow-cooked savoury stews made in pyramidal earthenware vessels, also known as tagines. Mrouzia, a lamb tagine flavoured with raisins and honey, is one famous way to use Ras el hanout; some people even refer to Ras el hanout as “Mrouzia spice.” Serve tagine with couscous to sop up the flavourful sauce.
Meatballs: Use Ras el hanout to flavour ground lamb or beef and make your own North African meatballs.
Vegetables: Toss fresh vegetables with olive oil and Ras el hanout before roasting or grilling for a uniquely flavourful vegetable dish, its particularly good with sweet potato.
Mix a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout into a cup of couscous before cooking.