Ras el hanout

Ras el hanout

A Month in Marrakesh
100 g
David Loftus

This spice blend is something that every visitor is cajoled into buying when wandering around the souks. In Morocco, it’s used in game dishes, bistillas and tagines such as mrouzia (lamb, raisins, almonds and honey). It also flavours majoun (hashish, dried nuts, fruits, smen and honey candy) or ‘love potion’ to give it it’s Arabic name, an indication of its purpose as a stimulant.

Ras el hanout translates as ‘head of the shop’, each spice merchant has his own special recipe of at least fifteen, and up to thirty, different spices that usually includes nutmeg, cardamom, mace, ginger, cloves, lavender, cayenne, orris root, cinnamon, cumin seeds, turmeric, aniseed, rosebuds, allspice, coriander seeds, white peppercorns, cubeb or Java pepper, fennel seeds, cassia bark, tara soudania (earth almonds), grains of paradise, nigella seeds, wild or black cardamom, ash berries and not to mention belladonna berries, reputed aphrodisiacs such as Spanish fly (cantharides beetle) and Vitex agnus-castus (monk’s pepper). The best mixes have an ethereal and lingering sensual flavour, so not much is needed to impart a potent taste to dishes.

It would be foolish to make your own version of this spice mix in Morocco as there are a great deal of merchants making excellent blends. However, as much of the commercial ras el hanout available in the UK is of dubious authenticity, give it a try. It’s hard to give a precise recipe as there are often so many hard–to– find ingredients used, experiment with what you have until you get the flavour you like.


Quantity Ingredient
8 rosebuds
6 cinnamon sticks
6 mace blades
2 tablespoons nutmeg
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 small piece orris root
1 tablespoon lavender
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
2 tablespoons allspice berries
10 cardamom pods
1 small piece galangal
1 small piece ginger
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
8 cloves


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a spice blender or food processor and blend to a fine powder. Transfer to a jar and seal tightly.
North African
A Month in Marrakesh
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