Spices

Spices seem to hang in the air in Morocco, flavoring every experience with a heady blend of ancient flavors. Rich but not too spicy-hot, the tagines, couscous dishes, sauces and salads of Morocco are elevated with distinct blends of spices – every home cook seems to have a secret recipe. Get familiar with Moroccan spices and blaze some flavor trails of your own.

1. Turmeric (kharkoum) – A bright yellow-orange spice also used for dyeing, turmeric provides the color for many Moroccan dishes. It has an earthly, peppery flavor that is slightly bitter, and is also renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties.

2. Cumin (kamoun) – Used widely in Latin American, South Asian and North African cuisines, the dried seeds of the cumin plant have a distinctive flavor and aroma. Cumin gives food a warming feel without an overt spiciness.

3. Ginger (skinjbir) – This popular South Asia root has spread across the globe, and Moroccans love adding the hot, fragrant spice to both sweet and savory dishes. Packing a peppery punch, ginger can be eaten fresh, pickled or dried, and it also features natural preservative properties.

4. Cinnamon (karfa) – Made from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree, this sweet-hot spice appears in numerous Moroccan dishes, most notably atop the pigeon pastillas (pies) of the city of Fez. Cinnamon is also used to give a deep, rich flavor to savory dishes like tagines and couscous.

5. Saffron (zaafran beldi) – Often more expensive than pure gold, this delicate spice comes from the vivid red stigmas of the crocus flower. Difficult to harvest and rare in the wild, this bright yellow spice is used sparingly and imparts a lush, unique flavor to couscous, rice dishes and stews.

6. Ras El Hanout - Ras El Hanout is the most famous blend of spices in the country and often includes more than 30 different ingredients. Translated as “the top of the shop,” this premium mixture of punchy flavors reflects the rich cultural diversity of Morocco, whose cuisine features influences from Berber, Arab and Moorish kitchens. Many of the spices are handpicked, toasted and ground before they’re mixed together.

There is no official recipe for Ras El Hanout, because every chef makes it his or her own. The color of the Sahara Desert, this potent spice mixture is easy to make at home when you choose a simplified version – and you can always add your own special ingredients to give it a personal flair! This mix works well to season meat, poultry, fish and vegetables; rub it on before you cook or sprinkle it generously over the final product. Be sure to store your Ras El Hanout in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Combine together the following ingredients to make a simplified version of Ras El Hanout:

  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground anise seeds

 Image: lazlophoto