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Ras el Hanout - The Golden Spice Mix of North Africa

Nadia GalinovaNadia Galinova
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Mix of spices used for Ras el Hanout

Ras el Hanout is a North African spice mix used in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco mainly by Arabs and Jews. The name, translated from Arabic, means store manager and means a mixture of the best spices that the seller can offer to his customers.

Usually the mix consists of about 30 types of spices. However, there is no exact and strict recipe for making the mixture. Each trader, manufacturer or family makes up their own mixture.

Commonly used ingredients include: cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, dried ginger, hot peppers, coriander seeds, black pepper, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek and dried turmeric.

In different regions they add some of their most typical spices to the mixture. There are many variations. The ingredients are usually baked, then crushed with a mortar and finally mixed together. In some mixes they put salt or sugar, but this happens very rarely.

Garlic, saffron, nuts or dried herbs are usually not included in the composition of the mixture, as they are usually added individually to dishes, but some commercial mixes (especially in Europe and North America) may contain them.

Ras el Hanout is usually used for rice dishes, meat dishes and also for seasoning lamb. It can be found even in some sweet dishes.

In the past, ingredients such as St. John's wort were sometimes included in Ras el Hanout, so that the mixture can be used as an aphrodisiac. Cantharis (Spanish fly) is derived from a specific type of dried dung beetle. It is known as an aphrodisiac because it has the ability to irritate the genital tract, causing the blood to flow to the genitals. However, it has not been used as an ingredient in Ras el Hanout for a long time, as the sale of cantharis was banned in Morocco in 1990.

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