Tag Archives: Harissa

Harissa made with fresh Chillies

My love of harissa began in Sicily many years ago. 

Harissa is a hot chilli condiment and the favoured national spice of Tunisia, but it is also popular in Algeria and Libya.

I  first tasted harissa about 30 years  ago in the home of one of my cousins in Augusta, Sicily. He was then a naval, mechanical engineer who had discovered harissa (stored in beautifully decorated little golden tins) through his many travels and work close to North Africa in the Mediterranean Sea . He gave me a tin to bring back to Australia and I have been making versions of harissa ever since .

Years later, in 2013 I visited Tunis where harissa was served with everything we ordered in restaurants and I first wrote a post about harissa on my blog  in the same year. 

Sometimes on the north-western and western coast  of Sicily you may find restaurants that make fish or meat couscous and accompany it with harissa or a chilli condiment. In Calabria chilli paste is also popular but this has no spices, just heat and salt.

Each batch of harissa I make is slightly different because I never weigh or measure ingredients, but unless I have an abundance of fresh chilies I use dry chillies or chilli flakes. 

I do have many fresh chillies at the moment.

There have been times that I have charred the fresh chilies, but this is far too fiddly. I like short cuts so I sauté them in a little extra virgin olive oil.

I love caraway seeds and this is always a key spice in any harissa condiment I make.

Quite a good deal of salt and extra virgin olive oil are a must for making harissa and not just for flavour but also as preservatives. I use oil to sauté the ingredients and then to drizzle into the food processor as the rest of the ingredients are mixing together. I also use the oil to cover the top of the paste in the jar to prevent mould forming.

Only sometimes do I add cumin and coriander seeds, but in small amounts to suit my mood and the particular food I wish to accompany the harissa with. Cumin and coriander are common in middle eastern cooking so there is no need to duplicate flavours if I have used those spices in the cooking.

This time I also added garlic, that I sautéed with the chillies, but I do not add garlic every time. Once again, if I use garlic in the cooked dish, why duplicate the flavour?

I added some smoked paprika to impart the smoky taste  and some sweet paprika, a little tomato paste and a fresh chargrilled red pepper. These ingredients add flavour, soften the taste, add bulk and make the paste smoother.

The juice and grated peel from 1 lemon adds flavour and sharpens the taste.

The procedure is simple. I remove the stem part of each chilli, but I do not de seed them, however this depends on the degree of their hotness  and how fiery you like the paste to be.

I had approx. 200g of chillies, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp  of caraway seeds, 1/2 tbsp of cumin seeds, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1tbsp salt, 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tbsp of each of the sweet and the smoked paprika, lemon peel and 1 red chargrilled pepper, peeled. 

* Please alter amounts of all ingredients to suit your taste.

Sauté the chillies with the garlic cloves. Once they are soft add the seeds and the paprika. Continue stirring over heat to toast the spices. Add the charred pepper (de-seeded and torn into strips), tomato paste and about 1/4 cup of water and cook briefly for a couple of minutes. Add lemon juice  when you have finished the cooking.

Blend everything adding more oil and the salt until you have a fairly smooth paste.

Bottle into sterilised jars and top with more oil. Store it in the fridge and  after you have used some of the paste, always top the paste  with more oil.

See:

HARISSA (A hot chilli condiment) 

CREMA DI PEPERONCINI ; Hot Pepper Paste in Autumn

 

CREMA DI PEPERONCINI – Hot Pepper Paste in Autumn

Chillies are at their best in Autumn. I generally never waste produce and when friends give me some of their fresh seasonal crops  I get enthusiastic and active.

These chillies were grown in Adelaide and  this time I decided to make a chili paste that was not Harissa.

I have been making Harissa for a very long time since one of my Sicilian relatives who lives in Augusta introduced me to it about thirty five years ago.  Augusta is in south eastern Sicily and  is an important Sicilian  and Italian naval base and trading port.  Giacomo is a mechanical naval engineer and was often called out to work on naval vessels in the gulf, some vessels  were from Tunisia, Algeria and Libya  and he was introduced to this hot chilli paste through his contacts. There are many recipes for this paste and it is an important condiment in Middle Eastern Cuisine.  Some make it with dry chillies, some with fresh chillies and some with roasted chillies. I usually use cumin and caraway seeds and garlic when I make it. I use Harissa in many ways and always to accompany cuscus.

I also like to make Salsa Romesco , a condiment popular around Barcelona in north-eastern Spain.  Like when making harissa there are many variations to recipes  but this condiment is commonly made with red peppers,  garlic, tomatoes, white bread and almonds.  Sometimes I have  roasted the peppers and added some roasted chillies as well.

Crema di Peperoncino is a chilli paste that is very popular in Calabria. It is usually made with fresh chillies , salt,  garlic and olive oil.  I thought that would combine my experiences for making Harissa and Romesco and make a roasted chili paste. No spices, just chillies, salt, garlic and extra virgin olive oil  – Crema di peperoncini.

Isn’t that what cooking is all about?

I kept is very simple.

I could have made a milder paste by adding some ordinary red peppers which are also very much in season but I decided to just keep the Crema di pepperoncini hot, hot. hot….And it was. I used the other red peppers in a salad.

The photos demonstrate what I did.

Use any type of red chillies that you have.

INGREDIENTS: red chillies, garlic to taste, 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, teaspoon of salt (preservative), more extra virgin olive oil to place on top.

Grill/ Roast the chillies on high heat. Turn once until blackened and charred all over. Do the same with unpeeled garlic cloves.

Allow to cool.

Remove the skins and seeds – you can leave some seeds if you would like it hotter!

Blend all the ingredients together.

Place in a sterilized jar and top with a layer of more oil to seal. I keep my jar in the fridge and make sure that each time I take some out of the jar I replace a layer of oil on top (to stop mold).

See previous posts:

HARISSA (A hot chili condiment)

SALSA ROMESCO (Romesco sauce, this recipe is made with roasted peppers, tomatoes and almonds)

FILETTI DI SARDINE CON VINO E LIMONE (Sardines with wine)

I love sardines. Being a small fish they cook quickly and are still considered by some as being exotic.

Here are two different recipes and both use wine. The same ingredients are in both recipes but in one recipe the sardines are sautéed and in the other they are baked. I prefer to use cleaned whole sardines when I bake them.

In both recipes whole fish or fillets can be used. The sardines as fillets (no bones) can be eaten on fresh or toasted bread and makes a good starter. I like to top them with a little harissa when I do this (mixing of cultures here).

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INGREDIENTS
500 g of fresh sardines (whole or fillets), ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of fresh parsley and ½ tsp of dry oregano, 1-2 cloves of garlic chopped finely, salt and pepper to taste, juice of ½ lemon, ¼ cup white wine.
Instead of using white wine try cooking them with red wine and use red wine vinegar. It alters the taste and colour.

PROCESSES
Sauté sardines in hot extra virgin olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste, garlic and the herbs. Turn once only. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add lemon and wine and de-glaze the pan. Evaporate a little to form a sauce. Return the sardines to the pan to coat them in the sauce and to reheat.

INGREDIENTS (as above)
I prefer to use whole sardines for the baked version of this recipe. Fillets can also be cooked the same way but will cook more quickly.

PROCESSES
Bake whole sardines 200°C for 25-30.  Bake fillets for 20mins.
Arrange the sardines in a round baking tin that you have coated with the oil. These look very attractive if arranged in a pattern with their heads in the centre and tails radiating out to the edges (like spokes).
Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste, wine and vinegar, garlic and the herbs.
Bake and eat when ready.

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HARISSA (A hot chilli condiment)

I was in Tunis recently and very much enjoyed one particular meal at a restaurant that was by locals and cooked traditional food. The restaurant was very hard to find and our map reading skills were not the best, but we were very happy with the range of food we ate there. Harissa seemed to be in most of the food we ate including some mixed in some oil, which was served as a dip as a starter. It had slices of cucumber and black olives in it.

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The other was a carrot dip also with Harissa. We dipped our bread into both of them.

I have been making and eating harissa for many years.

Harissa is a hot chilli condiment and ingredient and is the favoured national spice of Tunisia, but it is also popular in Algeria and Libya. It is very common to have harissa with couscous and I first tasted it in Sicily many years ago, which is very close to Tunis.

There are now many books about Middle Eastern cuisine (and North African) with recipes and variations for making it, but this version is very simple. I like to use whole caraway or cumin seeds rather than the powder and I do not usually weigh the chilli flakes, but the following ratio works well. In Tunisia they use a dry, very dark whole chilli, which produces Harissa with an intense colour. The chillies could also be smoked (hence their dark colour).

This photo is in my second book Small Fishy Bites and I took it in Tunis.

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150g dried chilli flakes
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
hot water to soften the chilli
1 tbsp whole caraway or cumin seeds
salt, 1 tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup for the mixture and a little extra to seal
Pour hot water on to the chilli flakes, (just enough to cover them) and soak for about 30 minutes. If using caraway seeds rather than powder, add these to soak as well. (The water will be absorbed and the flakes should swell).
Blend the ingredients in a small food processor.
Add the garlic, salt and some the extra virgin olive oil. You may need to add a little water – it should resemble a soft paste.
Pack into small glass jars and top with oil to seal. Replace the oil covering each time you use it.
To make the Harrisa flavoured oil simply mix 2-3 teaspoons of Harissa in about 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil.

Arabic Minaret Tunis

 

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