Since I’ve discovered roasting the chilis and garlic first, harissa has become one of my very favourite things to do with the summer chili glut. It’s fast and easy to make, and though it’s spicy hot it’s not raw – it’s also complex and interesting with lots of depth.
I’ve made faster recipes that skip the roasting step, but the roasting really does change it and is worth doing.
Harissa is wonderful as a dressing on all kinds of warm vegetable salads. Try tossing grilled or roasted zucchini or pumpkin or beans with a teaspoon of harissa. It’s wonderful with a teaspoon full added to mayonnaise or yoghurt as a dip or sauce for felafels or patties. It works really well as a rub on practically anything you barbeque. Kangaroo steaks rubbed in harissa (teaspoon of harissa per steak on a board, rub the steak in it, let it sit for 10 minutes or so, then quickly fry) are spectacularly good. Add a tomato salad and a cucumber raita, and maybe some barbequed sweet corn on the side and it’s the perfect barbeque dinner.
Freshly made harissa will last in the fridge for a long time, they say as long as 6 months if you use a clean spoon to get it out and add a layer of oil over the top each time you use some. This recipe makes four small jars or two medium ones or one large one, about 500 grams net. The recipe scales up easily if you have more chilies.
Unless you are just making a small batch to eat straight away, it will help the harissa last if you first sterilize your bottles by boiling them for 15 minutes, or pressure cooking for 5. (It also helps if you bottle in small jars so you can open one at a time).
Deseed 400 grams of chilies (that’s 400 grams before you deseed them). Use gloves, (or if you touch any sensitive part of your anatomy for hours afterwards, you’ll so wish you had). Harissa is hot but with a lot of complexity and you only use a little at a time, so you can use quite hot chilies in it. I use my Bishops Crowns.
Halve 200 grams of cherry tomatoes (or quarter larger tomatoes).
Peel 4 or 5 cloves of garlic.
Spread them all in a single layer on a baking tray. If they don’t fit in a single layer, separate them and put the tomatoes on their own tray. You want them all to roast rather than stew. Sprinkle over 3 teaspoons of coriander seeds, 3 teaspoons of cumin seeds, and 1 teaspoon caraway seeds.
Roast in a hot oven or under a grill for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring as needed, until the seeds are starting to pop, the tomatoes are starting to shrivel, and the chilies are starting to char in spots.
While they are roasting, in the bowl of your food processor, put the juice and rind from a lemon and a good teaspoon of salt.
Tip the roasting tray in and blend the mix, scraping down the sides a couple of times, until it is semi-smooth.
Then, with the food processor running, slowly pour in half a cup of good olive oil, so that the mixture emulsifies and goes thick and a bit creamy. You can make it even thicker and creamier if you like by adding more olive oil but to my taste half a cup is just right.
Scrape the harissa with a clean spoon into the warm bottles. Add a thin layer of olive oil on top and store in the fridge.