Ras el hanout (Arabic: رأس الحانوت) is a popular blend of
herbs and spices that is used across the Middle East and North Africa. The name
means "head of the shop" in Arabic, and refers to a mixture of the best spices a
seller has to offer.
Left: Ras el hanout
There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el hanout.
Each shop, company, person would have their own secret combination containing
over a dozen spices. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon,
ground chili peppers (also known as paprika), coriander, cumin, nutmeg,
peppercorn, and turmeric.
Some recipes include over one hundred ingredients, some quite unusual, such as
ash berries, chufa, Grains of Paradise, orris root, Monk's pepper, cubebs, dried
rosebud, and the potentially toxic belladonna and insects such as the beetle
known as Spanish fly. Usually all ingredients are toasted and then
ground up together. Individual recipes are often improvised.
Ras el hanout is used in
(the Moroccan squab/young pigeon and almond
pastry), is sometimes rubbed on meats, and stirred into
couscous or rice. It is
often believed to be an aphrodisiac.