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There is nothing more universal than spices: these little condiments have become the mavericks of cooking worldwide.
Hardy and persisting they passed through countries and centuries unscrupulously taking over numerous kinds of country cooking, shamelessly imposing themselves in most of elaborate recipes. Already in the 9th century, Ibn Khurdabda, a Muslim traveller born in Persia mentioned the spices that traders brought back in his country. The spices that have passed through Cairo for centuries come from all known countries or nearly so: black and white pepper from Ceylon or from Malabar, the long pepper from Sumatra and Java, ginger from India, camphor from China and most of the gums from the Arabic peninsula, in particular from Oman and Yemen and sometimes from Sudan. “The Thousand and one Nights” describes people smelling of saffron, amber, musk and sandalwood. One of the busiest spice route passes through the East African Coast. Malek Chebel.
The Ras el Hanout
It is a traditional Moroccan mixture; “ras el hanout” means” boss of the house”. Originally it was the grocery shop owner who made the mixture according to his customers’ taste and purchasing power. The ingredients vary but they all contain an aphrodisiac, for example cantharides (golden green flies) as well as dried flowers. The Ras El Hanout is sold whole or grounded on demand. Regarded as a tonic, it accompanies game, couscous, and rice and lamb tagines and flavours a treat made with almonds, honey, butter and hashish called “el majoun”.
The Ras el Hanout mixture is made of cardamom, nutmeg flower, galanga, long pepper, tailed pepper, nutmeg nut, Jamaican pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, rose buds, lavender flowers, cantharid, Guinean pepper, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon-case, nigella, belladonna and iris root.