Ras el hanout (also called Ras al hanut or Ras al hanout) is a mixture of spices and herbs that originated in Morocco, from where it spread throughout the Maghreb.
Its Arabic name means head of the spice shop, and refers to the best spice mixtures that shopkeepers can offer.
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What is Ras el hanout and its origin
To find the origin of this mixture of spices, herbs, bark, roots and dried flowers one must go back to the city of Sijilmasa in the Middle Ages.
Sijilmasa was at that time an important commercial enclave, where many caravans with a large amount of products converged.
On one occasion, the dromedaries carrying the spices of an important merchant got into a fight, causing the goods to spill out onto the ground, mixing together.
The merchant had no choice but to pick up the mixed spices and put them on sale. Of course, he concealed from his customers the real reason for this spice medley, claiming that it was a unique mixture that was causing a furore from Cairo to Damascus.
In short, Ras el hanout comes from a magnificent marketing strategy.
It should be noted that in addition to being a magnificent condiment, this mixture of Moroccan spices also provides great benefits to health, helping to improve digestion and preventing the onset of some diseases due to its antioxidant properties.
How to make Ras el hanout
Each shopkeeper has his own recipe for Ras el hanout, which varies according to the traditions of the place, his origin and the budget of the customers.
However, there are some ingredients of Ras el hanout that should not be missing, as well as a way of elaboration that we could define as canonical.
Ingredients that should not be missing
The ingredients of Ras el hanout can include from 4 to more than 100 spices. The most common are: nutmeg, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, mace, ginger and paprika.
The colour of Ras el hanout can range from dark brown to vibrant red, passing through orange, ochre or gold.
Their taste is also variable, but it is always warm and aromatic, with a slight bitter and spicy hue.
To make Ras el hanout you only have to mix its ingredients in a container. Of course, with a correct mise en place.
The most convenient way is to use spice powders, as this will save you from having to grind them. If the spices are whole, grind them in a mortar or coffee grinder.
Once you have the Ras el hanout, keep it in an airtight container so that its aroma is not lost.
How we can use the Ras el hanout
It is not difficult to know how to use Ras el hanout, as this spice blend is a condiment that brings colour, aroma and flavour to any dish.
In Morocco it is traditional to use it as a condiment for lamb, and also as a marinade, in couscous and tajines.
Other recipes that are very popular in Ras el hanout are purées, vegetables, stews and roasts.
If you are a friend of spices, the Ras el hanout will be an unforgettable delight for you, with which you can enrich the most varied dishes. It is not necessary to go to a Moroccan restaurant to taste this exceptional condiment, it is very simple to prepare and, if well kept, it can serve you to surprise your guests or clients for a long time. Don’t forget to try it!