Add Some Razzle to Your Cous Cous Tonight

The Middle Eastern spice blend ras el hanout turns a simple starch into a far-flung meal

Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot

Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot
Ras el hanout, the North African spice blend, along with fresh orange zest and juice, mint, and cilantro, give Israeli cous cous a fresh feel and flavor in this simple weeknight meal.Farideh Sadeghin

I fell in love with ras el hanout while living in New Zealand. This North African spice blend, made up primarily of allspice, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne, was first introduced to me while working in a restaurant. The sous chef asked me to add a bit of "razzle dazzle" to a dish, and I had no idea what he meant. So he pointed out the ras el (hence the "razzle") hanout, an ingredient I'd never seen before.

In Morocco, though, it's a common spice blend of Arabic origin. It doesn't have a set recipe; rather its name loosely translates to "top shelf," a mixture of whatever best spices you have available. Now I use it for some razzle in everything from chicken to fish to roasted potatoes—even popcorn. Here, along with fresh orange zest and juice, cilantro, and mint, it's a vibrant yet comforting way to spice up simple Israeli cous cous. I serve it with pan-seared snapper, a simple yogurt sauce, and a cucumber salad, though the cous cous is just as satisfying all on its own, or as a side to any dish that needs some top-shelf razzle.