Dining at a destination where you get to sit on the floor and eat with your hands?
Sign me up.
I bet you think I’m about to bestow upon you the tale of a journey I embarked on to a faraway land whose celestial, rugged landscape was only outdone by its culinary majesty.
But we’re not talkin’ the Moroccan motherland.
Instead, let me provide a short anecdote on Hawaii.
For the past fourteen years, my sister has resided in this tropical paradise. Nearly every summer since she moved from North Carolina to Oahu, my family has ventured across the country for a two-week visit.
Though we’re all suckers for delicious home-cooked meals (even on vacation), we have a collection of memorable restaurants to visit that have become indispensable jaunts during our annual Hawaiian excursions.
One in particular, a charming, colorful Moroccan eatery called Casablanca, is my inspiration for this story – and most importantly, for this aromatic spice blend.
From the multicolored floor cushions to the tapestries adorning the walls, and the orange blossom water basin for hand-washing right at the table, Casablanca’s cozy ambiance is full of character. Any meal enjoyed there is an incredible experience, from start to finish.
The prix fixe lineup is laden with traditional dishes like dry-rubbed Cornish hens with intensely tart preserved lemons and briny olives, and sweet-and-savory chicken b’stilla (saffron meat pie) encased in flaky phyllo dough and dusted with powdered sugar.
As for me? I’ve always been a sucker for the lamb tagine.
Its warm, earthy spice blend (Casablanca’s house ras el hanout) is a mystical, mouthwatering combination that lifts me off of my throw-pillow, hurls me out of Hawaii, and lands me in Morocco.
The juicy lamb is braised until tender in the sea of spices, then finished with sticky prunes and nutty sesame seeds.
For the final stop on the taste train, fragrant mint tea is whimsically streamed into a clear cup from high above your head and served alongside chebakia (squiggly, golden-fried pastries perfumed with honey and rose water).
In my humble, hungry opinion, the ras el hanout is the standout ingredient of the entire five-course meal. Its bold infusion of flavors is so aromatic that you have to taste it to believe it.
Since Hawaii isn’t exactly around the corner from my house, I had to learn to make this Moroccan medley at home. Here’s what I discovered:
As I began composing my own version of ras el hanout, I found I already had most of the seasonings on hand in my spice rack. And since I was the one doing the whisking, I got to play with whichever flavors I wanted to be more prominent.
The same goes for you.
Not woody enough? Crank up the cinnamon. Not a fan of musky coriander? Hold back.
For a refresher on what’s what, give Your Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Herbs and Spices a once-over.
Lightning round spice seminar in 3, 2, 1…
Though fresh ginger is sharp and spicy, the ground version is warm, a bit sweet, and pungent on the nose.
Cumin, one of the most versatile spices of the bunch, boasts a distinctively smoky, slightly lemony flavor, and you’ll find it scattered throughout all kinds of different regional cuisines throughout the world.
Paprika is one of my favorite words to say, and probably the most-used spice in my closet. It’s vibrantly colored, mild, and fruity like a bell pepper. The sweet version is, well, sweeter, and its smoked form is rich and oaky.
As for coriander, it carries a bright hint of citrus and toasty notes.
Fun fact! That fistful of cilantro you muddle into your guacamole and shower over your tacos? Those are the leaves of the coriander plant.
When that plant flowers, you get coriander seeds. If you like, you can learn more about growing your own on our sister site, Gardener’s Path.
Both have been around and commonly used since biblical times at least, so for those of you who think cilantro tastes like soap:
Sorry. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
No matter how you take your tacos or tagine, this ras el hanout will be a welcome addition to your lineup of scratch-made spice blends.
Forks and chairs not required. Sunburns not included.Print
Raid your spice cabinet and whip up this famous Moroccan blend. It’s an aromatic combination of sweet, savory, and earthy flavors.
- 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons ground paprika
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 4 tablespoons ground sumac
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
Measure all of the ingredients into a small bowl, and then whisk to combine. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Spices
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: Moroccan
Keywords: ras el hanout, Moroccan, spices
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Ingredients
In a small bowl, measure the cinnamon, cumin, paprika, coriander, sumac, and ginger.
Step 2 – Mix Spices
Whisk the spices together until thoroughly combined. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, in your spice rack or a cabinet.
A Magical Moroccan Journey in Your Mouth
Even if you’ve never traveled outside of the county, catching just a whiff of this spice blend will somehow evoke Moroccan memories.
The possibilities for where to rub, dust, or sprinkle ras el hanout are endless. It clings like a champ to protein, so rubbing it onto chicken, or using it in a marinade for grilled lamb kebabs are always great choices. But its warm and sensual aroma also screams gamey stews, marvelous meatballs, and earthy, spiced fall soups.
Pepper your culinary repertoire with new ideas by taking a deep dive into the world of homemade spice blends. These recipes will get you started:
I confessed to my paprika love affair earlier. Which go-to do you grab for the most? Share your spice obsessions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”