Ras el Hanout

According to Sallie Morris and Lesley Mackley in their book The Spice Ingredients Cookbook, page 100, ras el hanout is the Moroccan version of “curry powder,” in that every Moroccan spice merchant (souk) sells a unique blend. Even the proportions are variable. The name ras el hanout means “top of the shop,” indicating the premium placed on high-quality ingredients.

Morris and Mackley, as we’ve written, do not give proportions, but this link does. However, that link has several problems. First, ras el hanout is traditionally sold as whole spices and herbs, and the buyer grinds only the mixture immediately before use. The peppercorns, cumin seeds and coriander seeds should be roasted before grinding. Second, the uniqueness of this spice mixture rests on the inclusion of dried flowers and dried chilies, making ras el hanout “ a flowery curry with a kick.” We suggest using lavender or rose buds for the floral component and either chipotle or arbol for the dried chilies. Go easy on the chilies; this mixture is not supposed to be extremely hot. Finally, we think the link downplays two strong components of traditional ras el hanout: nutmeg and ginger. One solution is to add mace and galangal in equal proportions to the nutmeg and ginger to accent these flavors.

For comparison, we list the ingredients Morris and Mackley recommended:

nutmegs
black peppercorns
coriander seeds
cumin seeds
whole cloves
green cardamom pods
ground turmeric
cinnamon stick
ground ginger
salt
dried red chilies
dried flowers

We can’t get this spice mixture from our local spice merchant, so we mix it ourselves. If you want a pre-made blend, we suggest you try the link listed in the first paragraph or this one.

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