The Spice Trade Industry insider knowledge, and usage tips on spices and other ingredients

Industry insider knowledge, and usage tips on spices and other ingredients

Regency explores the spice blend Ras El Hanout

One item that’s recently caught our attention is the Moroccan spice blend Ras El Hanout. It’s used throughout North Africa as a popular spice blend (not to be confused with Berbere, a similar looking but altogether different blend). Being a blend, it’s susceptible to many impurity problems that are widespread in the spice trade. Traders often blend in cheap ingredients that otherwise they would be ashamed to sell whole, as we illustrated in our research of garlic powder dilution. Ras El Hanout is even more susceptible, because it’s a blend of many spices. Not only can poor quality items be mixed in, but bad ratios of ingredients can also be mixed. For instance, if they have too much stock of pepper, their latest batch may have a greater percentage of pepper to get rid of it. If their ginger is close to expiry, they can up the ratio of that in the blend. The worst sellers also dilute their blend by using wheat products like rice flour, thus weakening the spice flavour altogether!

ras-el-hanout-powder

Regency set out to see whether there’s a real preferred recipe, or a better way to make the spice.

First and foremost, we never falter on our quality, and so are always willing to sell our blend in whole form. We’re proud of what goes in, and not afraid to hide our ingredients by powdering them away. We also encourage our customers do buy whole and grind fresh – you can absolutely trust your blend this way, and the flavour of freshly ground is unbeatable.

We scoped our suppliers, other retailers ingredients lists, and food blogger recipes online to see if there was a consensus on the recipe. It turns out that there is a list of ingredients common to almost all the recipes: Cumin, Coriander, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cloves, Pepper and Ginger. Other ingredients are up to the seller. One philosophy pioneered comes from the meaning behind the word Ras El Hanout. Roughly translated, it means “top of the shelf”, indicating that a seller puts in a blend of their best spices. In that respect, it’s very similar to garam masala – a mix of the most popular.

After some consideration, trial and error, we noticed other popular ingredients that would work very well with the flavour profile included Mace, Pink Salt, Allspice and Chillies. However, we’re after the best, so we took this a step further to add in a few more of our speciality ingredients. We first swapped out the ordinary black peppercorns for cubebs and green peppercorns to get a more exotic, earthy and fruity depth of flavour. We also added in some thyme to make the flavour more herbal and rich. The thyme element works wonders when our Ras El Hanout is used in tajines, so we were incredibly pleased with the way it turned out. The Mace also makes it smell luxurious – it could be a room fragrance on it’s own!

ras el hanout whole spices
The final blend of Regency Ras El Hanout.

Most of our ingredients like the mace, nutmeg, cloves, peppers, cumin and coriander seeds just entered new season, so they’re super fresh too!

So… how can you use Ras El Hanout?

Ras El Hanout is an extremely flexible spice blend. It’s not very spicy, it gives a warm, hearty flavour due to the ginger, cloves and nutmeg used. It’s also slightly sweet thanks to the mace and cinnamon. We find it very convenient to use in marinades, and it also works very well with dairy products. A halloumi cheese or paneer marinade would taste delicious for instance. More traditionally, using it as a spice rub for lamb and fish are amongst the most popular uses. It’s also used for flavouring north african curries and tajines. This one spice blend is capable to adding huge depth of flavour to a dish all by itself.

Today’s price for Ras El Hanout:

50G (1.8 OZ) HKD 110
200G (7.1 OZ) HKD 260
500G (17.6 OZ) HKD 430
1KG WHOLESALE PACK** HKD 600

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