A condiment that always has a place in our pantry – storebought or homemade - is harissa, a spicy North African chili paste often used to jazz up meat dishes, stews, and couscous-based tagines. We love to combine with mayonnaise (1:1 ratio) for a lovely sauce on sandwiches and sometimes add a healthy dollop to storebought BBQ sauce for extra punch.
There are many subtle variations in harissa recipes, from mild to flaming hot. Some contain tomatoes, some don’t, and some are smokier than others. Here’s a version we like to make at home.
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
10 dried red chili peppers (try a mixture of mild, medium, and hot)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Over a gas flame or on the barbecue, roast a red bell pepper until black. Place it in a paper bag and close up the top. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, or until you can easily slide the skin off. Remove the top and seeds, then dice.
Heat a heavy skillet until very hot. Add the dried chilies and toast them 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add just enough water to cover the chilies. Cover and let sit 30-45 minutes (or until soft).
Take out of the water, and remove the stems and seeds. I recommend wearing gloves when handling extra hot chilies!
In the same skillet, toast the coriander, caraway, and cumin until fragrant. Then, combine spices with all the remaining ingredients in a food processor, and blend to a smooth paste. Add water if necessary.
Store in an airtight container. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top to keep fresh.