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Nov 26, 2012 06:37 PM

Moroccan Spices for gift for Vegetarian Friend

A vegetarian friend of mine has bought 2 Moroccan cookbooks and become very interested in Moroccan cuisine. She is on a tight budget and hasn't been able to purchase proper spices. I would like to give her some as a Christmas present. Do you all have any suggestions as to spices or spice blends (also herbs, flavorings) that would make a nice gift? I would also appreciate where to purchase such items, esp. reasonably,

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  1. World Spice Markets

    I just started looking over some of the spice blends for ideas. WSM is about as good as it gets for spice knowledge and customer satisfaction. Happy shopping!

    1. How about a gift certificate to Penzey's or one of the many online spice merchants? That way the entire amount can apply to the precise items she needs/wants. Gift baskets/bags are pretty but since her budget is tight, you might consider forgoing the frills.

      1. Zaatar is something that once I bought a jar on a whim, I can't live without. At least the blend I got from Fairway, haven't tried any others. It is SO good on roasted vegetables.

        I have a friend who lives in Morocco and I know sumac is an important spice to her too.

        3 Replies
        1. re: coll

          Za'atar as the kind of thyme and present in Moroccan cooking is different than za'atar the Arabic spice blend (and not really all that present in Moroccan cooking, though very tasty).

          1. re: cresyd

            Thanks for the info, I just remember my friend giving me a zaatar recipe at one point, but I was happy with my premade so never made note of it. I think she gave me a blend, but what the ingredients were I can't say.

            I just emailed her over there after posting above to get her opinion; coincidentally, she wrote me overnight that she had just come back from the spice merchant but most of her purchases were oregano, cinnamon, clove and such for pumpkin pie, and some saffron. I will post what she says when she answers, in case there is anything else unusual. She is big on spices so will surely have something to add!

            1. re: coll

              Saffron in general is always the priciest get.

              Regarding Moroccan cooking specifically, I wonder if someone interested in making dishes would be interested in getting a ras el hanout blend or rather the ingredients to make their own? I know that personally I've never quite jumped on making Indian dishes becauses the spices called for aren't spices I generically have around the house. Not that any on their own are so pricey, but going out and buy 4-7 new spices makes the cost of trying a dish a bit daunting.

              In this case, obviously a gift card then allows the person to decide if they want various Moroccan blends or the base spices needed to make their own blends.

        2. are you anywhere near a city with a goods-sized population of North African immigrants? If so, a shop in one of the neighborhoods where these folks have settled is a good bet.

          Here's a good primer on the spices that are common:

          I've no experience with them, but these folks came up in a quick search

          1. I am thinking of ras-el-hanout, green anise, green cardamon, rose water, and harissa as some of the more difficult for her to buy. I live in VT, so we do not have much of a North African population, but I will check out the Bosnian shops as well as online. She has a 'modern' Moroccan cookbook; I will try to remember the name. She lives in Arizona, so she has access to dates and can make preserved lemons. I'm not sure, I am more familiar with eastern Mediterranean cooking.

            2 Replies
            1. re: drloripalooza

              With ras-el-hanout being the spice blend and harissa being the chili paste - the only gift question I would have would be if your friend would be more interested in making her own vs the blend?

              Assuming you know your friend better than we, seeing a spice blend recipe call for 10+ spices is intimidating and unpleasant to some and a fun challenge for others. Harissa specifically is more Tunisia/Algeria and more new to Morocco - so then there's also the question of how classic Moroccan vs fusion Moroccan your friend is interested in going.

              1. re: cresyd

                My friend just responded with this, she must have read your minds:

                Here’s a recipe for homemade “Ras el Hanout” , used for sweet tajines, mrosia and sfa:

                Ingredients: (a decent coffee grinder is helpful & will lend your next few batches of coffee a bit of mystery)

                · 2 teaspoons ground ginger

                · 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

                · 1 teaspoon ground mace

                · 1 teaspoon cinnamon

                · 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

                · 1 ground nutmeg

                · 1 teaspoon turmeric

                · 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

                · 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

                · 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

                · 1/2 teaspoon ground anise seeds

                · 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

                · 1 ground star anise

                · A few ground dried rosebuds


                Blend all of the spices in a bowl. Transfer to a glass jar, and store in a dry, dark place.

                Moroccan cookery, like most cuisines, relies on some basic “go-to” blends that distinguish said cuisine. For tagines, soups & other dishes: minced onion, parsley & coriander, s&p, powdered ginger, turmeric (or artificial coloring) & cubes (hydrogenated fat laced w/ salt) which replace the need for garlic, extra salt & curry powder, which is not traditionally available.

                For certain marinades – fish most notably: minced garlic, parsley and coriander, paprika, ginger powder, lemon juice – also used for chicken, for those who like this combo, when minced coriander and preserved lemon are added.

                Roasted peppers go well w/ cumin & minced preserved lemon.