Ras el Hanout with Rose Petals: Make your own spice mix
Updated: Jun 18
Here’s one you probably won’t have tried a Moroccan spice blend called Ras el Hanout. This translates to ‘top of the shop’ or as we might say in the UK ‘best of the best’ or top of the shop. It is called this because the ingredients in this spice mix are the best in their cuisine and is outrageously good!
A brief history of Ras el Hanout
Ras el Hanout is a popular spice blend that is widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. Its history is deeply rooted in the region's rich culinary traditions and reflects the trade routes and cultural exchanges that have occurred over centuries.
The term "ras el Hanout" translates to "head of the shop" or "top of the shop" in Arabic, suggesting that it is the finest blend of spices available. The precise origin of Ras el Hanout is difficult to trace, but it is believed to have originated in Morocco, which is known for its vibrant spice markets.
The exact composition of Ras el Hanout can vary significantly depending on the region and the personal preferences of the spice merchant or chef creating the blend. Traditionally, it was considered a secret blend that each spice merchant guarded closely, using a combination of exotic spices to create a unique flavour profile. This resulted in numerous variations of Ras el Hanout, with some blends containing over 20 different spices.
Common ingredients found in Ras el Hanout include cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, black pepper, and dried chilli peppers. Other more unique ingredients like rose petals, lavender, or even ground insects may be added for a distinct flavour.
Ras el Hanout has played a significant role in Moroccan and North African cuisine, where it is used to season various dishes such as tagines, couscous, grilled meats, and stews. The blend's complex flavours add depth and warmth to these dishes, creating a balance of sweet, spicy, and savoury notes.
Over time, Ras el Hanout has gained international popularity and is now widely available in specialty stores and online markets worldwide. It has become a staple spice blend in many kitchens, allowing people to recreate the flavours of North African and Middle Eastern cuisine in their own homes.
Today, Ras el Hanout continues to evolve as chefs and home cooks experiment with different combinations and ratios of spices, making it a versatile and adaptable blend that can be customised to suit individual tastes. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the fascinating history and delicious flavours it brings to the culinary world.
Making your own Ras el Hanout Spice Mix
Now, I am not going to fool you into saying that all of these ingredients are easy to get, you’ll find most in your supermarket have to look in Chinese supermarkets for the rest and potentially go online for the final one or two.. Oh, and forage for the rest! But.. It is worth it, if you have a tagine, if you are interested in learning the complex exotic Moroccan cuisine or simply love to try and cook different things please make this spice mix. It will store for months!
In terms of the foraged goods, that will be the lavender flowers (that you should dry) and the rose buds. Pick small unopened wild rose buds (Dog Rose), dry and peel off the green flower casing.
Ras el Hanout with Rose Petals Recipe
4 Whole Nutmegs
12 Cinnamon Sticks
12 Blades of Mace
1 Tsp Aniseed
8 Pieces of Turmeric (Dried)
2 Small pieces Orrisroot
2 Dried Cayenne Peppers
1 Tbsp White Peppercorns
24 Allspice Berries
20 Green cardamom pods
2 Pieces Galangal (dried)
2 Tbsp whole Ginger root (dried)
10 Rosebuds (dried)
1/2 Tsp Lavender (dried)
Check out my Ultimate guide to Edible Wild and Garden Flowers.
The hardest thing about this recipe is finding the ingredients! To make this spicy mix simply place all of the ingredients (except the Rose buds) in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until fine. Make sure the blend is fine (checking the corners of the grinder for any large pieces) and when ready pass through a sieve.
The Rose buds should be dry and you can gently break them open in a mortar and pestle. Add these to the sieved spice mix, stir in and then place in airtight containers.
I know there is a lot, but the only way to get the mix right is to make it to these huge volumes. If you can find suitable containers these little spicy packages make great little presents and the effort is obvious to the receivers of your presents especially when they taste it!
So what should you do with it.. Well the Moroccans don’t muck around. They use it with everything albeit vegetables, fish or meat, in a tagine or as a roasting rub. My favourite is to rub a whole leg of lamb in the plenty of the dry mix making sure that the aromatic spices penetrate deep into the lamb. Slow roast it covered for 4 or 5 hours until the meat is falling off of the bone and serve it with a flavoured lemony couscous, cooked apricots and a spicy gravy made from the juices… Exquisite!
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