One of the most delightful sights you will see in the souks of Morocco are huge mounds of brilliantly coloured spices. Valued not just for their flavour, but also their medicinal properties, spices are an essential addition to any authentic Moroccan meal. The exquisite warm flavours that are typical of Moroccan cuisine are what makes the food so delicious.
Ras El Hanout is a fragrant blend of spices commonly used in Moroccan cuisine. The translation from Arabic to ‘top of the shop’ suggests that this blend is made up of the best spices available in the marketplace. This means that there is no definitive recipe and each blend can vary wildly in flavour.
Every family will have their own special blend and most traders and restaurants will add special ingredients like orris root, rose buds or lavender to their Ras El Hanout mix to make it stand out from the rest. Some might include over 50 different spices.
Common ingredients include black peppercorns, chilli, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground ginger, turmeric, paprika powder, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cumin and cloves.
Getting that delicious savoury, sweet and aromatic flavour balanced right, so that no one spice dominates the others, is a fine art.
Here are some recipes to get you started, but don’t worry too much if you can’t get one or two of the ingredients and feel free to add a teaspoonful of your favourite spice into the mix.