Can it have been that long since our Mediterranean-themed March Break? Last month, I used the last teaspoon of our big-fancy-store-bought Ras el Hanout spice blend. Planning on another Moroccan Tagine for Sunday supper, I went out a whole day early to replace my beloved bottle, only to find that said fancy-shop-in-which-we-can-really-only-afford-the-spices had discontinued production! What was I going to do? Well, the first thing I did was to tear off the ingredients label of my favourite jar. Then, looking for cues on proportion, I searched out Ras el Hanout recipes in my cookbooks and online. As it turns out, much like India’s Garam Masala, North African’s Ras el Hanout has as many recipes as there are cooks. Soldiering on, at my local Bulk Barn and at House of Spice in Kensington Market, I found the ingredients in my blend and then some. [Since it is so much thriftier to buy in bulk and from local places, I was able to buy enough of each spice to fool around with proportion and flavour.] So, yes, dear reader, basing my recipe on my fancy-pants ingredients label, playing with the proportions and ingredient suggestions in other recipes, and adding some of the flavours I most adore [think fenugreek!], I came up with our very own House Blend Ras el Hanout.
Now, most of the spices in this Ras el Hanout recipe come in ground form. And, you can simply use all ground products to make a blend of your own. But, a good number of them also come in their whole spice form, which I just love. Truth be told, though, since I shattered a few metacarpals a year and a half ago, my mortar and pestle days are over. Also, I ruined our el cheapo famous-grocery-store-brand coffee grinder in a tragic attempt to grind poppyseeds for a Hungarian Poppyseed loaf recipe-in-the-making which, of course, never saw the light of day [thank goodness for the pastry shops at Bloor and Jane!]. So, it was high time to find something new with which to grind our spices. I ended up choosing the Cooks’ Illustrated recommended $29 Krups Fast Touch Blade Grinder from The Bay. Since you have to wipe the blade area and you can only really soap up the lid, I now have a grinder devoted wholly to spices! [The coffee will have to wait! I have my fave local haunt, Grinder on Main, anyway!]
Armed with a new grinder and a whack of spices, I got to work! I tried a few variations until I hit upon the ultimate blend, which, if I dare say so myself, is waay better than its inspiration blend. With this new Ras el Hanout and with our house-made Preserved Lemons, we are tagine-ready 365- no, 366 days of the year. I’ve already used it in a Paula Wolfert tagine, and in the otherwise-plain green lentils that I served with a roasted leg of lamb. And both were delish!
Here’s our recipe! And, do keep in mind, this is flexible recipe! Use it as a rough outline for your own House Ras el Hanout! Use what you’ve got! Improvise!
Our House Blend Ras El Hanout
- 2-3 tablespoons flat cinnamon stick shards or 1 cinnamon stick broken, or or up to 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon dried rosebud petals or 1.5 teaspoons ground roses
- 12 green cardamom pods or 1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1.5 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1.5 teaspoons coriander seed or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns or 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried anise seed or 1/2 teaspoon ground anise seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers or 1/2 teaspoon ground lavender
- 1 teaspoon dried fennel seed or 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek or 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon saffron or 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron
- 1 tsp white peppercorns or 1/2 teaspoon white pepper [ground cayenne or chili pepper can be used in its place]
- 2 dried bay leaves or 1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons ground paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric [fresh dried turmeric may be used to taste but shelf life may decrease]
- 1.5 teaspoons ground allspice or allspice berries
- 1.5 teaspoons ground galangal or, for a twist, use amchoor powder
- 1.5 teaspoons ground ginger [fresh dried ginger may be used but shelf life may decrease]
- 1.5 teaspoons ground mace
- 1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg or 2 whole nutmegs ground
- 1.5 teaspoons ground orris root
- .5 teaspoon ground cloves or 2-6 cloves ground
- Place all whole or non-ground spices in a grinder devoted to spices and pulse until fully ground.
- Add the remaining ground spices and grind until combined.
- If desired, pass through a fine sieve.
- Funnel spice blend into an airtight container.
- Store for 6 months to a year.