Just as there’s no universal curry powder, nor is there a universal ras el hanout. It is Arabic for “head of the shop” and is traditionally a blend of the best spices a merchant has to offer. Combined with chickpeas, roasted squash, and tahini, and served with pita, it makes a lovely dip to accompany drinks or, with a salad, a nice light lunch.
First make the spice blend. Break the cinnamon stick into pieces. Place in a dry pan with the cloves and seeds, and toast over medium heat for about 1 minute until aromatic and the seeds are popping (shake the spices in the pan as you heat them to prevent them from burning).
Once toasted, remove from the heat and add the paprika. Place in a spice grinder, blender, or mortar and grind until the mixture is a powder—sift it if necessary. This spice blend will keep for up to 3 months if stored in an airtight container.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the hummus. In a large bowl mix the cubed squash, garlic cloves, and ginger with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the spice mix. Season with salt and pepper and scatter in a single layer in a roasting pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes until tender all the way through.
Once the squash is soft, add the contents of the pan to a blender, discarding the garlic skins. Add the tahini, chickpeas, and a squeeze of lemon juice along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary—you might need some extra lemon juice.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl and sprinkle with a little of the spice mix. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with warmed or grilled pita bread on the side.