Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Spice is Right #4

Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries went looking for something hotter than July (in the Northern Hemisphere) for this month's The Spice is Right and it came in the form of Chillies.

chilli flames

I decided to stoke those chilli flames with a powerhouse paste that's a fundamental component of North African cuisine - that paste is Harissa.

Harissa is used as both an ingredient and a condiment but beware, it must be used to taste as it is incredibly hot - a small amount will go a long way. Harissa is basically a paste made from dried chillies, garlic, cumin, caraway and tomato and this recipe comes from a favourite Australian Chef, Christine Manfield.



80 grams large dried Chinese chillies
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
50ml tomato purée
60ml oil

Chop the chillies and place in a bowl. covered with water and let it sit for at least 2 hours. Drain, but reserve the water.

Dry-roast the cumin seeds over a low heat until fragrant. Let them cool, before grinding them to a fine powder, with the caraway seeds.

Place the chillies, garlic and 100mls of the reserved soaking water in a food processor and process until smooth. Add spices, salt and tomato purée and process again. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil and blend until the paste is smooth.


Spoon into sterilised jars, cover with a film of oil and seal. Keeps refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Makes 1 cup.


If this seems a bit too intense than it might be worth looking at Sweet Chilli Sauce.

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  1. Doesn't seem too intense at all! It seems like something we neeeeeeeeed to make.

    We first read about Harissa in one of Patricia Wells' books and at the time, made a note to ourselves to make some. Many thanks for the reminder.


  2. Thanks Elizabeth! It's a handy paste to have to give food a bit of a lift - a teaspoon or so in a casserole to give it some oompf.

  3. AnonymousJune 28, 2007

    This deserves some serious praise! The color of the Harissa is so vivid! your photography is wonderful- i absolutely adore the way you shot the Harissa. Using the red and orange background and the white spoon-GENIUS! I don't know where or how you took these shots but they are simply magnificent! BRAVO! :)

  4. Thank you Anon that's most generous of you. They were all taken on my dining room table using natural light, very low tech.

  5. I have been enjoying Harissa since my teenage. Here in Montreal you can buy it in tubes. The best is ironically from France. Add a bit with some mayo and serve with fries.

  6. Thank you for sharing this recipe..I have never made Harissa before, I usually buy it when on holiday in Tunisia. I am thrilled with the colour and is deliciously hot!


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