Ras el hanout is a spice blend from North Africa. It plays a similar role in North African cuisine as garam masala does in South Asian foods.
The name is Arabic for “head of the shop” similar to the English expression “top-shelf”. This means it’s made up of the best spices the shop has to offer. It’s not a spicy, hot blend, but rather it imparts a rich, warm, earthy flavour to whatever you add it to.
Ras el hanout is used in savoury dishes such as tagines or stirred into couscous or rice. You can also add it to lentil and bean dishes or pilafs. It’s generally associated with Morocco but neighbouring North African counties use it as well.
As with many spice blends, there is no definitive composition of spices that make up ras el hanout. Each shop, family or home cook may have their own blend.
Ras el hanout is often made of more than twelve spices, which can include: cardamom; cumin; cloves; cinnamon; nutmeg; allspice; paprika; and turmeric. You can also find ginger; ground chili; coriander; black pepper; fennel; and saffron in some blends.
Ras el hanout is similar to bahārāt. They differ more by the types of dishes they’re used in and the region they come from.
I happen to be very fond of ras el hanout. Here’s my simple version of it.
Ras el Hanout
30 ml ground cinnamon
15 ml ground turmeric
5 ml ground ginger
5 ml ground cardamom
2.5 ml freshly ground black pepper
2.5 ml freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
In a small bowl combine the spices. Store in an airtight container, it will last for several months.