On a recent trip to Morocco, I was quite astounded to find just how serious they are about their herbs and spices. Pleasantly so, I might add.
I mentioned to our fabulous tour guide, Jaouad from Infinite Morocco Tours, that I wanted to buy some Moroccan spices. Most of all, their famed Ras el Hanout. I had expected to be taken to a store, but we were taken instead to a spice merchant / herbalist at a market. He knew all about cooking with spices of course but also, how they should be used medicinally. You can imagine my joy at that!
I learnt from this experience that being a spice merchant is a family business in Morocco. The spice merchant I visited when buying the Ras el Hanout was fourth generation, and the spice blends available in his store had been made from recipes that were passed down from his elders. That is not something you come across in Australia! Spices are bought at supermarkets and there is no such tradition attached. Although after that experience I wish there was.
What is Ras el Hanout?
Ras el Hanout is a spice blend from North Africa that is generally associated with Morocco. Each family’s recipe for Ras el Hanout is different however, it often contains at least a dozen spices (or up to 60 or more!) in varying proportions. The combination of spices commonly incorporates – cloves, cardamom, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and; aniseed. The one that I bought (the blend seen in the photo below) had 44 different spices in it and I adore it.
The name Ras el Hanout loosely translates to ‘head of the shop’ or ‘top of the shop’, which is to suggest that this is the finest mix the spice merchant has to offer. It’s much like the English phrase ‘top shelf’. It has a strong spicy aroma and a flavour not unlike curry – although I would say its taste is more complex. Even now just having a little whiff of it transports me straight back to the Souks in Morocco. It’s wonderful.
You can use this delicious spice as a meat rub or just add to quinoa and baked veg too. It’s extremely versatile. And so, on to the recipe. Enjoy!
Whole roasted cauliflower with Ras el Hanout and tahini
- 1 medium cauliflower (about 700g)
- 1 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp. sea salt (or a touch more if you prefer)
- 3 tsp. Ras el Hanout (you can buy a wonderful mix from Besaha)
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (340 F)
- Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and trim the base so it sits flat
- Wash and dry the cauliflower then place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper
- Mix together the tahini, lemon juice, water, salt and Ras el Hanout to form a smoothe paste. Taste the mix, and adjust with extra salt and/or lemon juice and/or Ras el Hanout to suit your preferred flavour
- Smother all over the cauliflower so it is quite thick (this should use roughly 1/2 to 3/4 of the tahini paste with plenty left for dipping once cooked!)
- Place in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until golden
- Serve as a side or slice and serve with an array of other baked veg
Wow – can’t believe that spice mix had 44 spices in it. That’s crazy! The cauliflower looks so tasty!
Thanks, Micky. I found that astounding too! Ras el Hanout has such a rich and complex flavour, I really love it.
Nice recipe, simple and full of flavour. Now I feel I need to go back to Marocco.
Thanks, Laura and I’ll come with you! I LOVED Morocco
I love the presentation of the cauliflower and the flavors you used sound yummy.
Thanks so much Jere
Ras el Hanout is such an interesting spice blend, I have never tasted it, but I’ve bought some ingredients in hope of making it myself! I don’t have 44 ingredients though. But this sounds amazing!
I think once I finish what I bought I’d love to have a go at making my own too!
That is the coolest looking cauliflower dish I’ve ever seen! I think you’re on to something here!
Haha! Thanks, Kelly
I never knew you could roast a cauliflower whole before! It looks really impressive. I’m a big fan of both ras el hanout and tahini.
You can indeed. All it needs is a little time and it comes out so tender and perfect. I love that combo of Ras el Hanout and tahini too!
Spices are such an important part of cooking. That’s so neat you got to buy these spices first hand!
They really are, Tina. I was SO happy I could bring spices home with me. I thought it might be impossible because of our strict laws on bringing foods into Australia but they were cleared and I have a few months supply so yay!
I LOVE preparing cauliflower whole. Makes such a fantastic presentation. I have not done it with this selection of spices. Sounds amazing.
I do too Gloria! It makes a wonderful centrepiece. Especially if you can get your hands on a purple cauliflower…
I love finding new ways to prepare cauliflower and this is definitely different. Looks great!
Me too! We really enjoy this, it’s almost a dish in itself
That’s an interesting spice blend to use for cauliflower, I’ve never tried this one and wonder what else it can be used for. Thanks for teaching me something new 🙂
It’s gorgeous with lots of things! Particularly veg and as a spice rub on meat too.
I loved the souks in Morocco, and the spices! This cauliflower looks and sounds delish. Would love to make it!
I loved all the Souks too! And the whole of Morocco. It’s such a wonderful place. I hope you enjoy this when you get to make it.
What a fun experience to enjoy the local spice market, I’d love to visit Morocco one day. I’m going to definitely be trying this recipe, I love roasted cauliflower.
Thanks, Alexis! It was loads of fun visiting the spice market and I absolutely adore Morocco. You must go and visit and book a tour with Jaouad!
This is so interesting. I love learning about new food, new ways to cook usual food. I feel like making a trip to your place a taste this
Haha! You’re welcome anytime Armelle….
How cool to be able to go to an actual spice merchant. I’ve only heard of them during Christopher Columbus times. I would’ve loved to buy spices that way.
I think it was my most favourite part of the whole trip Sondria. I loved visiting that market!
This is so easy to make and it looks so tasty! I’m going to bookmark this recipe. I think it would be a great addition to my holiday menu!
Thanks, April. I hope you enjoy it!
I have been wanting to try whole roasted cauliflower! It looks so beautiful. This would be an amazing statement side dish at Thanksgiving or any dinner party!
I think it looks fabulous as a statement piece on the table Samantha. Particularly if you can get your hands on a purple cauliflower!
I have never made cauliflower whole before. Looks delicious
It’s a great recipe to try first up. Super simple and exceptionally tasty!
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a whole roasted cauliflower! This looks so easy and healthy!
It’s quite delicious Stephanie! I hope you enjoy it.
I will try to make it. looks amazing
I hope you enjoy it!