If you like hot and spicy foods then you’d love harissa, a North African chili paste most commonly found in Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan cuisines. It’s often used as a condiment but is also added to meat dishes, stews, couscous or sauces.
A little bit of this delicious chili paste goes a long way. Too much can turn your hair red and melt the lips right off your face! There are a lot of subtle variations in harissa recipes; some of which would alert the fire department two blocks from my house, while others appeared to be on the slightly milder side. Some contain tomatoes, some don’t. I grabbed elements from a few different sources and gave it a whirl.
10 dried red chili peppers
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Over a gas flame or on the barbecue, roast a red bell pepper until black. Put 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 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 airtight container. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top to keep fresh.
Note: For a less fire-hot harissa consider using a milder chili, such as ancho.