Making Ras-El Hanout (Step 1): Setting the Stage for a Masterpiece

by | May 3, 2012

This post is part of a series…not to spoil the surprise, but after years of research, testing and sourcing the finest ingredients from local farmers around the world, we ended up nailing our special Ras El Hanout blend. I’m proud to say get compliments from people around the world on it!

Here at Pinch Spice Market, we;re continually developing new spice blends. So far we have created 8 in house blends including:

Each of these have unique flavor profiles and uses. Developing a spice blend is tricky business, as you want each individual spice to play a role without over-powering the other spices.

An artistic weaving of often contrasting flavors that symbiotically form a masterpiece, at least when we’ve done right. We use our personal experiences; the knowledge of friends and customers; and tireless research to create our blends in the store. We have a tremendous amount pride in all of our herbs and spices, but specifically with the blends we showcase our love and devotion to the craft.

Creating a Special and Authentic Ras El Hanout Blend

This brings us to our new spice blend quest. Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend with a rich history, but no clear-cut recipe. Every family and region tends to have its own varieties.

This will be the first installment of several posts as I go through the process of creating the blend. For today we will take a look at what Ras El Hanout is, and also explore some of the process of creating a rub.

First, What is Ras El Hanout?…

Ras El Hanout roughly translates to head of the shop. Each spice merchant in Morocco creates their own unique Ras El Hanout to showcase their best products. Generally, the blends will have at least 20 ingredients many of which are rarely seen on this side of the world. The rub itself is used to season meats, and is also used in traditional tagine cooking. So let’s explore the basics of making a spice blend.

Why We’re Making One of the Most Complex Spice Blends on the Planet

I’d like to share a little about me that may help explain this quest. I’m Thomas “Shoebocks” McGee. My cooking style is rather loose and generally based on the actual touch, feel, flavor, aroma, and general gut instinct for the foods I am cooking. I bring this style with me when I create spice blends, but at Pinch I find myself fine tuning and striving for consistency.

I have been cooking since I could reach the kitchen stove. Learning to make scrambled eggs from my mom when I was probably 5 or 6 years old. As a starving college student, I was very skilled at the “stone soup” method of cooking. Everyone would bring something and I will create an amazing meal out of it. It’s a very handy skill that allowed me to eat very well on a very tight budget.

Through my twenties and now into my thirties I have continued on a path of passion and experimentation towards food. Creating sourdough starters from grapes and other fruits, brewing beer, curing meats, building pizza ovens and custom grills, and just plain having fun with it. This is why I had to co-found Pinch and why I am excited to start this blend journey.

So that gets us started on the journey to making Ras El Hanout, which is not a straightforward path, just like the spice itself. Continue reading the next installment where we create a new blend, Ethiopian Berbere, as we prepare to get closer to our Ras El Hanout masterpiece. Berbere is an essential rub for Ethiopian cooking and is a great starting point to develop the more complex Ras El Hanout.

Read on to Step 2 of Making the perfect Ras El-Hanout


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