Have you heard of harissa?
Tunisian in origin, this fiery chilli paste adds a spicy slant of heat to a versatile variety of dishes. Smear it on your sarnie, add a drizzle to your salad dressing, toss it with veggies, dip into it with crusty sourdough or use it as a star ingredient to elevate your eggs (it works particularly well in shakshuka!), pastas or even your next pizza.
At heart, harissa is a textured blend of dried chillies, spices, garlic and olive oil. The chillies used of course make a difference, with different peppers varying in their potency from sweet-and-smoky anchos chiles to the hot-and-slender chiles de árbol. Here I’ve used Kashmiri red chillies, which are less pungent yet emboldening. My rendition of harissa is set apart by the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, which foil the heat of the paste with their slightly-salty yet intensely-tart flavours.
You can follow the steps below to a tee or recalibrate the recipe, tossing in more of your favourite herbs (from oregano to rosemary and mint), tomatoes or tomato paste (if you don’t have or particularly like the sun-dried variety) or even sweet bell peppers!
While store-bought harissa offers a quick fix, you’ll discover that the homemade route (as always) is far more satisfying – not just because the result is a labour of love, but also as you can tweak it as per your whims and fancies to make it truly your own.
- 5-6 Dried red chillies (I used Kashmiri red chillies)
- 1 Tsp Caraway seeds
- 1 Tsp Cumin seeds
- 1 Tsp Coriander seeds
- 3-4 Garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/4 Cup olive oil
- 1 Tsp Sea Salt
- 1 Tsp Paprika
- Handful of sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp Lemon juice
- Put the chillies in a heatproof bowl and submerge with boiling water, covering the bowl with a cling wrap and letting it soak for 30 minutes. Drain once the chillies have cooled, reserving the water. Remove the stems and seeds with care (wear gloves if you have them).
- Meanwhile, soften the sun-dried tomatoes by adding them to a pot of lightly-salted boiling water for about a minute or so. Drain and let the tomatoes cool down in a colander.
- Toast the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds in a dry skillet (over medium heat) – tossing continuously – until the spices are fragrant. Then, grind the spices using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (a coffee grinder should work too).
- Combine the chillies, spices and smashed garlic in a food processor (my mixer worked just fine here too) and pulse until a coarse paste starts to form.
- Next add in the seasonings and additional flavours: lemon juice, salt, paprika and sun-dried tomatoes. If you’re using a food processor, stream in the olive oil with the motor running; or if you’re using a mixer, stop and drizzle in the olive oil in stages.
- Keep processing/ blitzing until the chilli paste thickens and is mostly smooth, albeit with some texture. Pro tip: you can add the liquid reserved when draining the chilli to thin out the paste to your desired consistency.
- Store your harissa in an air-tight jar, covering the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. It should refrigerate for about a month, although be sure to drizzle a fresh layer of olive oil on top each time you serve the harissa, as well as when closing your jar.