Harissa

Remember when I posted my rose harissa recipe? Ever since, many of you have been asking me for a basic harissa recipe so I thought I would make a special post just for it!

Originally from North Africa, harissa is a hot paste/sauce that contains mainly chili peppers, red peppers, garlic, salt and olive oil.  Across North Africa, you will find numerous variations of the harissa depending on the region (or the family) since some recipes include herbs and spices.

Traditionally, harissa is made out of sun-dried chili peppers crushed with olive oil, creating a charming and fierce paste. The word “harissa” comes from the word “herass” in Arabic, which refers to the action of crushing the dried chilies.

Harissa’s main ingredient - chili peppers - made their apparition on the Moroccan soil in the 16th century. The lately most-buzzed about chili sauce is the result of three factors in North Africa: the arrival from Spain of the chili peppers, an abundance of sun and countless olive trees!

In Morocco, we like our harissa pretty basic, we usually don’t include herbs and spices in the recipe so we can add it to any meal without having a conflict of taste. Well, that’s what my mom said! 

Since there is no sun in London you will notice that we will not sundry our chili peppers, we will “dry” them in the oven because we've got to do with the means at hand, don’t we? That said, if you are somewhere very sunny and dry please go ahead; dry them and let me know how it comes out!

Enjoy the recipe below! Let me know if you have any questions. xx

Harissa

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 500 gr harissa

  • 500 gr red bell peppers
  •  1 to 4 chili peppers (any type), depending on how spicy you want you harissa 
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil and more for preservation
  • ·1 teaspoon salt or more to taste

METHOD

• Preheat oven to 100 C (210 F)

• Deseed and devain the bell and the chili peppers (use rubber gloves for the chili peppers as they might irritate your skin).

• Quarter the bell peppers and half the chili peppers lengthwise.

•  In a roasting tray place the red bell peppers, chili peppers and garlic. Make sure the skin side of the peppers is facing upwards because you don’t want their flesh to over-dry in the oven. Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and place the tray in the warm oven for 1 hour.

• After one hour, your peppers should look a bit wrinkled. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool. 

• Once the peppers and the garlic are cool enough to handle, chop them very finely or transfer them in a food processor.

• Heat a large deep pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and place the chopped bell peppers, chili peppers and garlic in the pan. Leave and stir occasionally until there is no more liquid in the pan. We want the mixture to dry up and all the water from the peppers to evaporate. It will take about 30 minutes. Don’t cover the pan, otherwise the liquids won’t evaporate. 

• Once there is no more liquid in the pan (except olive oil), reduce the heat to low and leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

• When your harissa is ready, transfer it in a sterilised jar and leave a bit of room in the jar to top the harissa with olive oil. Olive oil will act as a natural preservative. Close the jar, place the jar in the fridge and keep for up to a month. 

• Enjoy with everything!