Recipe: Harissa

CAYENNE IS THE MAIN INGREDIENT IN ‘HARISSA’, A KEY CONDIMENT IN MIDDLE EASTERN CUISINES

From the Vitality Food Feature ‘FIRE UP YOUR WINTER MEALS‘.

A key flavouring and condiment in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, Harissa is never far from a Moroccan, Libyan, Algerian, Turkish, or Tunisian table. In fact, it is the go-to seasoning for many cooks in the region. Often it is added to soup, stew and curry dishes or tagines, used with meatballs, or rubbed into kebabs and other meats before grilling.

The main ingredient is cayenne (or other hot chile peppers) and while it is easy to make from fresh or dried hot chiles, it is also widely available in cans or tubes, or freshly prepared in tubs in Middle Eastern or North African markets.

Dairy products (in particular yogurt), and the starch in pastas and couscous, help to dial the heat down and so they are often paired with harissa and other hot chile dishes.
(Makes 1/2 cup)

Ingredients

  • 12 cayenne, serano, or jalapeno chile peppers, fresh or dried
  • 3/4 cup boiled water
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 piece (2-inch) cinnamon, crushed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1) Discard stems and seeds from the chiles. Using kitchen scissors, cut chiles crosswise into thin strips, letting them fall into a bowl. Pour water over top and soak for 30 minutes or until softened.

2) Meanwhile, in a small, heavy pan or spice wok, over medium heat, dry-fry cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, and fenugreek seeds (optional) for three minutes, or until fragrant and light brown. Set aside to cool.

3) Using a small food processor or blender, chop the garlic with the salt. Drain chiles, discarding the soaking water (or reserving it for another use later). Add chiles to garlic and process until smooth. Add toasted spices and process to incorporate them into the mixture.

4) With the motor running, gradually drizzle in the oil through the opening in the lid, processing the mixture until the sauce is well blended to a consistency of mayonnaise.

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