Harissa is predominant in Tunisian cuisine, adding a sharp, hot, smoky hit to tagines, stews and soups, and can also be used as a condiment for grilled meat and fish – you can also use it to perk up a Bloody Mary!
There are endless variations on the recipe, the version I use has a good balance of spice, heat and flavour. Though there are excellent versions that you can buy in a supermarket, and I have probably used them all, once I made my own there was no looking back.
I make a good jar full, then portion it into an ice cube tray and freeze it so it’s always there to be used. It will also keep in a jar, in the fridge, for a good month or more.
Adjust the number of chillies according to your taste, de-seeding them if necessary. Bear in mind though that Harissa is supposed to be hot! This is best with home-made roasted peppers, because the smoky flavour is more pronounced. You can use jarred roasted peppers if you wish though, you could introduce more of a smoky flavour using a half-teaspoon of liquid smoke and some smoked sea salt, which is now widely available.
RECIPE makes about 300ml
3 red peppers
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
30ml olive oil
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
6 hot red chillies, seeds in, roughly chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
the juice of a lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
First roast the red peppers, by placing under a very hot grill on some baking foil (otherwise it gets messy!) for around 25 minutes, turning as the skin blackens. Transfer to a bag, seal it and allow to cool. Peel the pepper and discard the seeds.
Meanwhile, place a dry pan on medium heat and gently toast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds for a couple of minutes until aromatic. Transfer to a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder reserved for spices) or a mortar and pestle, and grind to a powder.
While the peppers are roasting, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the onion and chillies for around ten minutes until dark and almost caramelised, adding the garlic for the final minute or two.
Transfer the peppers, onion mix and spices to a blender or food processor, with the tomato puree, lemon juice and salt, and process to a paste.
Store in a sterilised jar in the fridge, or portion into an ice cube tray and freeze.
To sterilise your jar: heat the oven to 140C/ gas 1 and wash your jar and lid in hot soapy water, rinse and let them dry out in the warmed oven. When you take them out to use them, keep your grubby fingers away from the insides of the lid and jar or you will undo your good work.