Wednesday, 26 December 2007

ras el-hanout

Ras el-Hanout is the premium spice blend. Its name translates to “top-shelf” or “best in the shop” and refers to any spice merchant’s best quality blend. All recipes contain a few basic spices but after that it’s anyone’s guess as to what is in the mix. Each spice merchant will have their own, closely guarded, recipe and combination of flavours.

Traditionally, ras el-hanout contained mind-altering ingredients such as narcotic belladonna berries, hashish and Spanish fly.

Spanish fly is actually a beautiful green beetle whose dried body was ground into powder and used as an aphrodisiac. It’s effects are well documented and today it is still used in animal husbandry to stimulate mating. Since the difference between inducing seduction and death by overdose ran such a fine line, this powder was banned from the Moroccan souk in the 1990s.

These days the drugs are usually left out and what remains is an aromatic culinary spice blend.

It can be used to marinate meats or flavour couscous and is an important ingredient in bastilla (Moroccan pigeon pastry). It can also be used in stews and I like to include a little when I make chermoula.

Ras el-Hanout
Anna’s very own blend. Makes approximately 2 tablespoons or 15g.
4 whole allspice (pimento)
3 green cardamom pods
Recipe is featured in this book
3 whole cloves
1 small dried red chilli
2 teaspoons dried rose petals
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cinnamon stick, roughly crushed
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1. Over a low heat, dry roast all the spices in a frying pan (except the salt). Stir constantly to evenly roast and be careful not to burn.
2. Watch carefully as seeds start to pop and remove when beginning to brown.
3. Let them cool a little then grind in a spice / coffee grinder while warm, with the salt.
4. The spice blend will remain fresh, in an airtight container, for up to 2 weeks.

I just want to say another big thank you to all my colleagues in Europe who banded together to buy Jonas and I a spice grinder and kitchen scales for a wedding present. We love it and, as you can see, are getting good use out of them.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Anna,

    Wish you and your family a wonderful New Year 2008 !

    Best wishes and season's greetings from,



Thanks for saying hello. It's great to know there are people out there in cyberspace!

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