Friday, December 31, 2010

Ras el Hanout (North African Spice Blend)

"Ras el hanout" means "top-shelf" in Arabic.  This seasoning is used in many North African foods.  Like curry powders and berbere, there are regional variations - but more importantly, each cook may make their own signature blend, with potentially over 100 ingredients. My blend is based on ingredients that are more or less readily available in the U.S. - if not in your grocery store, then at a local Asian or Mediterranean market.     

Typically this blend might replace the spices in your favorite tagine , but I find that many stews can be successfully reinvented by using ras el hanout.

Makes about 8 oz.


3 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp white peppercorns
24 allspice berries
4 tsp cardamom seeds
6 cloves
10 rosebuds (dried)
12 cinnamon sticks
12 blades of mace
3 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp aniseed
8 Tbsp turmeric
8  Tbsp dried pepper flakes
1/2 tsp lavender
1 tsp saffron
1 Tbsp ginger powder


1. Add all ingredients that are not seeds to a non reactive bowl (glass or ceramic). In the ingredient list - begin with rosebuds and continue to the end.

2. Heat skillet.  Add all seeds (ingredients up until cloves). Turn heat to low or medium, and toast until fragrant, frequently shaking (about 1 1/2 minutes).  Remove immediately from heat and add to the other spices.

3. Grind in a spice blender in small batches until powder.  Pour all batches in a non reactive bowl, and stir together when finished.

4. Store in tightly sealed glass jars.  To take advantage of the freshness, use within two weeks.

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