The term “Ras el Hanout” (in Arabic رأس الحانوت) actually means “head of the shop” in Arabic, but in culinary terms, it refers to the aromatic spice blend used liberally in North African, and especially Moroccan cooking. It is easily made at home and no two recipes are going to be the same; some elaborate mixes can have over 20 spices and dried roots in them. I use different ingredients when making it, depending on what I’m cooking.
There are so many spice mixes and spice blends in the region: Ras El Hanout, Baharat, Za’atar, Tabil, Advieh, the list does go on somewhat. Some, like Tabil, are very basic and stay basic. Others, like advieh and ras el hanout, are open to interpretation.
Ras El Hanout is also sometimes called Mrouzia spice blend, because it is used extensively in the sweet and savoury lamb tagine.
The image below shows a spice seller putting together a ras el hanout blend to the customer’s requirements, in Morocco. I remember her telling him to go easy on the turmeric and rose.
How to use Ras El Hanout?
As a marinade for meat, in dips and great on flatbreads. Also fantastic in deepening the flavour of stews and tagine recipes. I also love changing up the plain old couscous with this and it lifts the ordinary yoghurt to another level, like this one, Za’atar Yoghurt. Flavoured yoghurts are great aa a condiment in Middle Eastern and Indian spreads.
For more spice mixes, take a look at the Ingredients Page.
Ras El Hanout, a North African Spice Mix