Harissa is a hot paste and condiment used in North African Regions, including Tunisia and Algeria, as well as in Israel – although it is probably best known for its use in Moroccan food. There are many different plays on the paste – from smoky and sweet, to hot and fiery.
This Moroccan-inspired paste is a lovely combination of sweet, hot and sour. Use it to flavor fish, tofu, vegetables, couscous, salad and of course, Tagines.
I decided that I wanted a less smokey, more sweet-hot pepper sauce, for an upcoming Tagine recipe that I am playing with. You can vary how hot you make it by using more of the dried chiles, and by using more pungent, fresh chiles. Harissa can also have red bell peppers added to give a sweeter flavor, and that’s what I chose to do here. I did also add about 1T of chipotle chiles from a jar, just to round out the flavor.
Begin by gathering all the ingredients and then roasting all the peppers under a hot grill/broiler. Keep turning them frequently until they are blackened all over. You could easily do this on a barbecue also. After the skins are blackened and blistered, place them in a large ziplock bag and leave until cool enough to handle, after which all the skins will slip off easily. Use your hands and perhaps a paper towel – resist the urge to peel them under running water, or you will lose some of those luscious oils!
I used whole caraway, coriander and cumin seeds and roasted them in a dry pan until fragrant, then used a mortar and pestle to grind them. I find this method gives best authentic flavor to the Harissa – although you could also grind them in a spice/coffee grinder – and even just use the powdered spices, if that’s what you have to hand.
You’re more or less done with the prep at this point – so now just put all the ingredients into a food processor, and puree until mushy. You can make it more chunky if you like, but I like mine the consistency of the picture above.
Pour into a sterilized mason jar, cover the top with olive oil and store in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Every time you take out a spoonful or two, simply re-cover the surface with fresh olive oil.
- 4 Large Dried Chiles, Soaked
- 2 Red Bell Peppers
- 2 Fresh Red Jalepeno or Fresno Chiles
- 1 T Chipotle Chile in Sauce
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 T Tomato Puree
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- ½ t Salt
- 1 T Dried Mint
- ½ t Caraway Seed
- 1 t Coriander Seed
- ½ t Cumin Seed
- 1 T Good Quality Olive Oil
- Extra Olive Oil to top off the jars
- Soak the dried chiles in hot water for 20 minutes to soften.
- Pour boiling water into two small mason jars and leave them until you are ready to fill the jars.
- Drain and de-seed the dried chiles. You can use some of the seeds if you like your paste hotter.
- Pre-heat the grill/broiler and grill the rest of the peppers until the skins turn black and blister.
- When ready,, place the peppers in a large ziplock bag and seal until cool.
- Remove the skins and seeds from the grilled peppers.
- If using whole seeds - Toast the carraway, coriander and cumin in a dry pan for about a minute, or until they smell fragrant, being careful not to let them burn, or they will taste bitter.
- Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle, or spice mill.
- Put the dried and fresh peppers, and the all the rest of the ingredients into a food processor, and pulse until ground to a thick pulp. How much you process depends on how smooth you want your paste to be. There is no right and wrong way - just process to your preference.
- Empty the water from the mason jars and dry with a paper towel.
- Fill the jars ¾ full and add about ½" of olive oil.
- Keeps covered in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Add fresh oil to keep the top covered with oil after each use.