How to make HARISSA PASTE
Harissa is a hot Tunisian chilli pepper paste used in dips, marinades, soups etc just like any other hot chilli sauce. It is a spicy red hot roasted pepper paste which brings depth of flavour to the dish. It has many variations and it can be made to suit your own taste. It is mostly made with a blend of 2 or more different types of hot peppers (like serrano peppers, Baklouti peppers, hot chilli peppers) garlic and your own blend of aromatic spices. The chillies are soaked in hot water till they soften and are ground to a paste with garlic, whole spices, lemon juice and olive oil. You can also use chipotle, poblano, ancho chillies or any other moderately hot peppers if you don’t like it very hot. So you can actually customize it to your own taste.
Harissa paste pre packed in bottles is also sold locally in middle eastern stores here. Tunisia is the biggest exporter of Harissa paste. It is also referred to as the National Condiment of Tunisia. When you travel to middle eastern countries the local grocery stores there sell fresh harissa paste.
Here’s the recipe:
1 Cup Red Hot Chilli Peppers
1/2 Cup Kashmiri Chilli Pepper or Chipotle Peppers
6 Garlic Cloves
11/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
Juice of Lemon
4 tbs Extra Virgin Olive oil
1. Dry roast the peppers on medium heat quickly. Be sure to put the exhaust on as the fumes can make you choke. It is better to cover your face with a handkerchief or face towel when you do this. Remove from stove. Soak them in hot water for 1 hour until softened.
2. Toast the cumin seeds on medium heat until they turn lightly brown and aromatic . Remove and keep aside. Roast the garlic cloves in a few drops of oil, give a quick stir till you see a little discolouration. Remove and cool completely.
3. Pulse the cumin seeds in a grinder till they are coarsely ground. Drain the water from the chillies and add to the grinder along with garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt and olive oil and grind to a fine paste.
4. Store in a clean dry bottle and store it in the fridge. Keeps well for a month.
Kashmiri red chillies are mildly hot so if you want less heat then you can use 1/2 cup hot chillies with 1/2 cup kashmiri chillies. I like to substitute kashmir chillies with chipotle or poblano for their smoky flavour. You can customize according to your taste and heat level.