www.marissa.co Ras El Hanout Curry Sauce

Curry Sauce with Ras El Hanout

A few years ago this curry was cooked for us by a very generous neighbour. The flavours were so different and tasty that I asked her for the recipe. Joan was an Indian cookery teacher when her children were young and taught maths in a women’s open prison when they left home. Joan reeled the ingredients straight out of her head there and then, whilst I typed them into my phone aka my brain! We sadly lost Joan to cancer last year, but every time we miss her, we cook one of her recipes and are grateful that she left an imprint in our hearts. There is a generosity to cooking and sharing your recipes and Joan was one of the kindest, most generous souls.

In this recipe the combination of spices is unique. Why? Well, I’ve never added Ras El Hanout to a curry. I’ve added it to North African stews and Moroccan dishes but not to curry and to be honest the small jar I bought can do with a few more uses. Joan was from South India and her flavour combinations were delicious.

Although I am no longer a cheffy purist, I still have a few values left from my classically trained days, balanced with being a mum and the need to find shortcuts. I always say to people you need to try and stay in the same food lane. Meaning I tend not to cross too many regions/countries flavours in one dish. You can cross flavours within the same country, but not say Morocco with Chinese spicing. This recipe proves me wrong, you can successfully cross regions, if the flavours of the underlying spices are compatible with the countries’ cuisine and Ras el Hanout straddles many regions.

The clever use of Ras el Hanout, which sometimes is interpreted as the king of the spices, or it has also been described as ‘the best the spice shop has to offer’ as a blend is clever to add to the curry. In one teaspoonful you get a wonderful mix of background flavours that add depth to the dish, almost like a garam masala. The combination I used contained black pepper, coriander, ginger, paprika, allspice, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cloves and rose petals. Can you see how many regions and countries in this one spice and can quite happily together.

This curry can be made to cater for non-curry lovers as the sauce without chilli it is still delicious, or adjust the number of Kashmiri chillis you use to suit the friends and family you are serving. If you don’t have Kashmiri chillis, add crushed red chilli flakes instead, but go sparingly as crushed red chilli is much hotter than Kashmiri chillis.

I have also made the recipe without yoghurt and it’s still delicious.

For vegans, you can use coconut yoghurt for a creamy sauce and without yoghurt too, which will work well with the flavours and all vegetables would taste good. You can add one or a combination of your favourite quick-cooking vegetables and pulses like a tin of chickpeas, a ready-cooked pouch of lentils, peas, cauliflower or sweetcorn. Or perhaps if you have more time a root vegetable option with butternut, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes.

Lightly fried tofu as a stand-alone or addition to a vegetable curry works well too.

The curry isn’t very wet, as in you don’t have excess sauce but each piece of meat or vegetables is generously coated.

Serving Ideas:

Serve as part of an India dinner party

A great make-ahead mid-week dinner

Slow cooker and pressure cooker friendly

Add the curry to a wrap with the salad I usually do this with leftover curry it is delicious

Joan, who was the most wonderful person and generous cook.  She had a saying for everything, her most famous quotes which I use on my children a lot is: ‘You have to have an attitude of gratitude’ and the one I remind parents of young children often is that ‘Children spell love T-I-M-E’ and the list of her wisdom is endless. Every time I miss her, I make one of her recipes it is such a powerful connector to the memories she gave us.

Curry Sauce with Ras El Hanout
Preparation time
Cooking time
Total time
A wonderful curry with fusion flavours that straddle North Africa and India. There is a balance of mild spiciness and a slight sweetness from the addition of Pomegranate molasses. This is a flavoursome and delicious curry. This is a great curry sauce to revive leftover roasted vegetables or meat.
Recipe type: Mains
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4
  • 2 onions finely sliced onions fried in olive oil until golden brown
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon mild Kashmiri chilli powder or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Rasa Al Hanout
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • Optional
  • ¼ pot stirred in of Greek or vegan yoghurt
  • Chopped coriander
  • Serve with rice, naan, cauliflower rice and vegetables of your choice
  • Additions:
  • Vegetables
  • Leftover Meat
  • Tofu
  • Cooked Pulses
  1. Fry the onion in oil until golden brown,
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and fry until the aroma has been released.
  3. Add the tomato puree and stir until the oil is released.
  4. Stir in the stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until the addition you have added in is cooked.
Add a tin coconut milk for a saucer curry.
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