If you’ve ever had a chance of taking a road trip to North Africa, you’ll be served every meal with a thick chili paste they call Harissa, just like Americans have ketchup with their meals.
Harissa is associated with Tunisia and considered a staple in North Africa and Middle Eastern Countries. The Origin of the word “Harissa” is an Arabia verb called “Harasa” which means “to break into pieces”. This versatile chili paste has a tendency to add depth and complexity to any dish along with a boost in taste. It can be used with meat, vegetable, scrambled eggs, or can be mixed with yogurt to use as a dip. In Tunisian food recipes, they use Harissa to add flavor to meat and stews.
On Comparing Harissa with it’s cousin Sriracha, the common perception is that harissa is a healthier option.While it’s widely available in supermarkets, if you want the spice level just upto your mark it would be a good idea and worth the effort to make it yourself.
How To Make Harissa Paste
- 20gm Dried Ancho Chilies
- 30gmDried Guajillo Chilies
- 12gmDried Kashmiri Red Chilies
- 3gmArbol Chilies
- 1 1/2tspCaraway
- 45mlOlive OilExtra Virgin
- 30mlDistilled White Vinegar
- 1 1/5gmSalt
- As safety, put on disposable latex gloves before you start working with chillies. Using kitchen shears, cut off the steam off the ancho and Kashmiri chilies and split the chilies in between to remove the seeds. And set aside the split chilies on a baking tray once done
- Oven- Roasting: If you plan on roasting your chilies in the oven, first preheat the oven at 175 C for 15 min. And line up your Ancho, Guajillo, Kashmiri and Arbol chilies on a roasted pan and leave space in between so the heat can flow and provide an even roasting. Once lined up roast them in the oven for 5 to 6 min just until fragrant and puffed. With the number of chilies you might need to do this process in batches
- Pan-Roasting: I find Pan roasting the chilies to be more effective as you can control the whole process, but the only downside is the strong pungent smell of roasted pepper that will be left after you're done with the whole process. Take either a skillet or a Cast iron pan and heat it at medium high heat, and once the pan is hot enough roast the chilies in very small batches on the pan (avoid overcrowding) on each side and turn until the chilies are fragrant and puff. This process will take approximately 30 seconds to a minute in total, so make sure you do not over toast the chilies and burn them in the process
- Once the chilies are roasted, place all the roasted chilies in a large mixing bowl and top them up with boiling water and soak them for around 25 to 30 minutes. When soaking make sure the chilies are covered in the water to hydrate them properly
- While the chilies are being soaked, heat a skillet or cast iron pan on medium heat and add in Coriander and Caraway seeds and roast them gently till they are fragrant for 1 to 2 min. While being roasted gently move the pan constantly to make sure to have an even roast and avoid burning the spices. Once the spices are roasted set them aside for a few min till they cool down
- Add in the coriander and caraway seeds in a spice grinder working in batches, blend it to a fine powder, and set it aside
- Once the chilies are hydrated, drain them and reserve 2 cups of water from it. In a blender add in all the chilies, grounded spices and garlic with the oil and 1 cup of reserved water into it with salt. Then blend till it's a fine puree. If required you can add in more water but make sure it's not runny
- In the last step to make the harissa paste, in a saucepan add in the harissa paste and add 1 cup reserved water to the sauté pan and simmer until the paste is thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Finish the harissa paste by mixing in the olive oil and vinegar
- Place the harissa paste in a seal-able jar and drizzle olive oil over top to preserve. And let the flavors melt into each other for at least a day before using it. The Harissa will last 1 month in the fridge