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Charred Chili Harissa


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.

The Recipe:

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.


{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Kate January 17, 2014, 1:46 pm

    I’m not that fussed on really hot chili but I live with someone who loves it. So this should make a nice little surprise for him. Thanks Linda.

  • rachel January 17, 2014, 6:29 pm

    Will have to try this with my orange Habaneros. Thanks!

  • Tamar January 18, 2014, 1:59 pm

    Just made some. Can’t wait to eat it. I’m thinking with BBQ’d beans, zucs, lamb and feta! mmmmm

  • Linda January 18, 2014, 2:14 pm

    Yum. A little goes a long way, and I’d love to hear how you like it.

  • Linda January 22, 2014, 6:24 pm

    Hi Tom, my original version of this recipe was preserved. I make mine in small jars, then put the sealed jars in the pressure cooker and pressure cook for 20 minutes. I’m happy and comfortable with keeping them on a pantry shelf like that, and only putting one in the fridge once it is open, when it usually goes within a week. (My fridge is tiny too). Preserving like this works with anything with a high enough acid level. My cherry tomatoes are acid enough, and it has lemon juice as well, and the salt helps too. The problem is that if the acid level is too low and the pressure cooking doesn’t take it to high enough a temperature or the lid leaks at all, the risk is botulism, which is deadly. You can add vinegar, which makes it quite safe, but that changes the flavours.

  • Keelin George June 15, 2016, 1:49 pm

    Hi, I make your Kasundi recipe all the time whenever I run out (love it made it yesterday again in fact Yuuummmm). The only thing that stops me making this is the effort of deseeding the chillies. Must it be done or can I just use less? 400g of small red chillies would be about 40 do you think (estimated they’d be about ~10g each but have I have no scales unfortunately)?

  • Linda June 15, 2016, 2:35 pm

    The small red chillies – bird’s eye chillies – are very hot, specially with the seeds, and yes, they are tedious to de-seed. You can leave the seeds in and use less. I’d probably use quite a lot less, and maybe add a capsicum to make up the difference, so that it isn’t too spicy. But then, that depends on how spicy you like your food!

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