Moroccan cooking is like its art and architecture—colorful and bold. A wide variety of spices build complex and unique flavor combinations. And, while many spices, like salt, pepper, and ginger are familiar, Moroccan cuisine makes great use of items that may not have a place in your spice cabinet.
A member of the rhizome family, like ginger, turmeric has an earthy, slightly mustard-like aroma. Typically used dried, it is a rich yellow-orange powder. It is often used to give foods a golden hue as well as flavor. It is often used in Moroccan tagines.
The world's most expensive spice, saffron is the dried stigmas and styles of a crocus flower. However, a little goes a long way. Typically a pinch of saffron is soaked in hot water to help release its subtle but distinct flavor. It is used to flavor any number of dishes and to provide a bright yellow color to foods, like couscous.
The dried seed of a member of the parsley family, it is most often used ground. This tan powder provides a warm, earthy and slightly bitter flavor. Cumin is an essential ingredient in soups, stews, and even pickles.
Real cinnamon comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, and is sold in either "sticks" or ground. Ground cinnamon is reddish-brown in color and has a slightly sweet, warm fragrance. A common flavoring in Moroccan sweets, cinnamon is also often used in savory dishes, including soups, stews, and tagines.
Ras el hanout
This is a ground spice mix typically associated with Morocco. There is no set recipe; each shop or family often has their own variation. Typical ingredients, however, include: cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and more.
A wide variety of spices give Moroccan cuisine some very unique flavors. The next time you're enjoying Moroccan food with us, see if you can identify them.