Moroccans are proud of the spices that are such a major feature of the cooking. Cumin, harissa and paprika are displayed in carefully prepared pyramids in the souks. A couple of important spice mixes are fundamental to Moroccan cuisine.
Chermoula consists of finely chopped onion, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, coriander, sweet and hot red peppers and saffron. Along with additional spices depending on the dish, it can be used for meat, poultry, game and fish as a marinade, spice rub and in a sauce.
Ras el hanout is translated as shopkeeper's blend. This can be bought commercially or made yourself and should contain pepper, lavender, thyme, rosemary, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, fenugreek and cinnamon along with local spices which are difficult to find here. It will vary from shopkeeper to shopkeeper, but these are the basic spices. A simple version to make at home is as follows:
1 1/2tsp black peppercorns
1tsp each of powdered ginger, cumin, cinnamon and coriander
1/4tsp each of ground nutmeg and paprika
4 cardamom pods
Grind all of the ingredients using a pestle and mortar or a spice mill. Use as a spice base for meat, fish and vegetable dishes. It keeps for a month or so in a sealed jar.