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Top of the Shop: Ras el Hanout

A beloved North African spice mixture, ras el hanout is particularly popular in Morocco, where it’s fabled to warm the body and carry aphrodisiac powers. Arabic for “head/top of the shop,”  (a.k.a. “top-shelf”), ras el hanout consists of the best spices in the house. Its exact components and proportions varies from shop to shop, cook to cook, and region to region.

Each attar, or spice mixer, keeps his recipe secret. Some purists claim that true ras el hanout must contain exactly twelve ingredients, while more complex preparations contain up to 100 spices. Common ingredient choices include cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, galangal, lavender, rosebuds, earth almonds, chili peppers, coriander seed, grains of paradise, mace, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and dry turmeric.

In Morocco, you’ll find ras el hanout mixed in rice and couscous, or rubbed on fish or meat—often in game dishes and beef or lamb tagines. For this week’s Moroccan steak, we’v prepared a ras el hanout that’s relatively simple, but still plenty complex: cumin, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, allspice, cloves, salt, and pepper. Rubbed on the steak with a bit of olive oil and complemented by preserved lemon relish, it imbues the broiled meat with warm, fragrant spice.

There are countless other ways to spice up your meals and snacks with ras el hanout. Here are a few of our favorites:

Ras el hanout and za’atar grilled salmon

Make a barbecue that’s anything but average with generously spiced, grilled salmon, tabbouleh, and charbroiled vegetables with pomegranate seeds and a yogurt tahini sauce.

(Image + inspiration: What’s for lunch, Honey?)

Lamb tagine with chickpeas and apricot

An aromatic stew with dried fruit, chickpeas, couscous, and tender braised lamb shoulder.

(Image + inspiration: epicurious)

Ras el hanout popcorn

Sprinkle some ras el hanout on with that butter to take movie night to the next level and really make your popcorn…well, pop.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 2.03.44 PM
(Image + inspiration: lizzy in the kitchen)

Coffee-rubbed brisket with parsley couscous

Pairs some boldly spiced beef brisket with a preserved lemon-tomato-pepper sauce and herbaceous parsley couscous.

(Image + inspiration: Serious Eats)

Ras el hanout chicken with figs and couscous

A fragrant take on total comfort: braised chicken with shallots, thyme, carrots, and figs on a bed of couscous.

(Image + inspiration: Bon Appétit)


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