Monday, December 22, 2008

Harissa

What is Harissa?
Harissa is a North African hot red sauce or paste made from chili peppers (often smoked or dried) and garlic, often with coriander and caraway or cumin and served with olive oil. It may also contain tomatoes. It somewhat resembles sambal and chili sauce. One well-known and expensive variety, "rose harissa," also includes rose petals.

Harissa is used both as a condiment and as an ingredient in recipes. It has been described as an important item in Tunisian cuisine. Harissa is also used in a few recipes of other North African cuisines, namely Morocco, Algeria and Libya, though it is often treated as a condiment to be served on the side. Moroccan couscous and Algerian couscous is generally served with Harissa sauce.

In Tunisia, harissa is served at virtually every meal as part of an appetizer along with olives and tuna. It is also used as an ingredient in a meat (goat or lamb) or fish stew with vegetables. Harissa is also used to flavour the sauce for couscous. It is also used for lablabi, a popular chickpea soup usually eaten for breakfast. Lemon juice is sometimes added to offset the richness of the sauce. In Saharan regions, harissa can have a smoky flavor.

The paste (which may vary from one Tunisian region to another) is also sold in tubes, jars and cans, and in the West is eaten with pasta, in sandwiches and on pizza. In some European countries like Germany it is very popular as a breakfast spread for tartines or rolls, and in almost every supermarket one will find varieties of Harissa or Harissa-themed spreads. Harissa paste can be also used as a meat or aubergine rub.

Ingredients:
  • 3 ounces mild and hot chilies (combine ancho, New Mexican, and guajillo chiles.
  • 1 clove garlic -- crushed with salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt -- for above
  • 1 teaspoon coriander -- ground
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed -- ground
  • 1 red bell pepper -- roasted
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • olive oil

Preparation:
  1. Stem Seed and break up chilies. Place in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Drain; wrap in cheese cloth and press out excess moisture. Do the same for the red Bell Pepper.
  2. Grind chilies in food processor with garlic spices, red bell pepper, and salt. Add enough oil to make a thick paste.
  3. Pack the mixture in a small dry jar; cover the harissa with a thin layer of oil, cover with a lid and keep refrigerated. Will keep 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator with a thin layer of oil.
Harissa Sauce:
  • Serve at the table as an accompaniment to meat or fish, the heighten the flavor of salads, or as an accompaniment to Tunisian couscous:
  • Combine 4 teaspoons harissa paste, 4 teaspoons water, 2 teaspoon olive oil, and 1 or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice in a small bowl and blend well makes 1/4 cup.

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