Homemade Harissa

I've been seeing lots of recipes lately that call for harissa, a sauce that is a staple in North African cuisine, specifically Tunisian. With its fiery taste and gorgeous color from the main ingredient - chilies - harissa is used to add both flavor and color to various dishes. It is traditionally served as a condiment, like a relish, and used to accompany couscous. It's supposedly great mixed with olive oil and lemon juice for dipping torn off pieces of crusty bread, mixed with olives or to enhance salads or soups, cooked fish, or meats.

Reading through some of my cookbooks - dreaming about all the dishes I'd like to make next month - I came across a recipe for harissa in Christine Manfield's latest book, Stir. The book has beautiful photography, and is essentially a collection of recipes for homemade spice pastes - including harrisa, sambal, massaman and green curries, and complete with recipes for using each paste in a variety of different dishes. Stay tuned, because after tasting the harissa when it was finished, I'll definitely be making some of the dishes from this book - the flavor is fantastic. It's smoky, with undertones of the cumin, caraway, and garlic...and even a taste on the finger made me realize that I'll be trying to find anything I can to use as a vessel for sopping up this yummy sauce and getting it into my belly!

The heat in the sauce can be varied according to type of chilies used, and by how much of the seeds and veins you leave with the chilies. I used some lovely dried Anaheim chilies that were sent to me by my friend, Dawn, over at SoCal Foodie over Christmas (she's taking a breather from blogging at the moment, so I hope she comes back soon!). I took out about half of the seeds after soaking and chopping the chilies, because while I like a healthy kick of spice to my sauces, I do still like to be able to taste my food! And it's definitely still spicy! Everything else was a staple I had lying around, and you probably do to.

13 comments from you:

vlb5757 said...

Oh man! That looks totally yummy. I got some chilies from Dawn too and have plans for them but now I can see that I am going to have to have hubby buy me some more dried chilies when he is in San Diego next week! Great post!

K Allrich said...

HOW did you know I've been wanting to make harissa? :-)

cookiecrumb said...

I've made harissa once, and it didn't even closely resemble yours. I grant that there are lots of versions and variations, but, Hoo, mine had so much caraway in it, my tongue went numb.
I should try again. (I don't think my recipe even had tomato in it.)
Yours sounds good, and the photo is soo-purb!

Joycelyn said...

hi michelle, your harissa looks awesome! i can just imagine how it's destined to become a staple in your wonderful kitchen. i couldn't live without my lovingly well-worn mortar and pestle too - i also especially love it because i had inherited it from my grandmother.

Anonymous said...

Michelle, that looks fantastic. I saw harissa at the market the other day, and almost bought some, but had no idea what I'd use it for. I think now I'll make some of my own, and probably try it next time we make couscous.

Great photo too.

Kitchen Queen said...

I've noticed harissa too and wondered about it. Thanks for the nudge!

Anonymous said...

The little sqeeze tubs that we can buy (sometimes) are so yummy, but expensive so this as a fabulous post! YAY!

Michelle said...

Hi Vickie! I'm excited to see what you're going to do with yours! I wanted to make enchiladas, but I've been itching to get cooking and I had all the ingredients for this on hand, so...this is it!

Hi Karina! Well, didn't I tell you? I have food ESP... glad I could help out by providing you with a recipe!

Hi Cookiecrumb! Secret: I've never had harissa anywhere, so I don't really know if this is an authentic taste or not, but everything I've read about her says she's a world traveler...let me know what you think if you decide to try it!

Hi J! I think it is...at least for a while anyway - we had it on nachos last night and it was really yummy and smoky and added a whole new dimension of flavor to them. I bet your mortar and pestle is incredible - I love anything I've inherited from my grandmother. Mine was purchased from an Oregon pottery artist down the coast from here about 4 hours.

Hi Kitchenqueen! Anytime!

Hi Clare! Well, my dear, anything I can do to help another starving scientist out!

Dawn said...

I'm so impressed! This sounds good. I'm also glad that it will keep for a month, sometimes I am worried I'll make a bunch of something and then not have time to finish it! I think that this might be my next recipe to make. Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

This is great! I've made some Tunisian dishes, which call for harrisa on the side but I never had the knowledge to make it. Your recipe sounds doable for me. I'll try it next time.


Michelle said...

Hi Dawn: I worry about that too, because I HATE it when I waste food. No, thank YOU for the chilies - they were my inspiration!!

Hi Paz: You'll have to post your Tunisian recipes so I have something to go with my harissa!!

Unknown said...

I've heard several people saying they have seen harissa at markets but I have been absolutely unable to find it! I would love to be able to buy some (until I have the time to make my own) to remind me of my time in Tunisia. I crave it all the time and I have long exhausted the few jars that I brought home. I live in Corvallis, OR. Anyone have any suggestions nearby?

Michelle said...

I'm not sure about Corvallis, but you can certainly find it at places like Marche Provisions or Cooks, Pots and Tabletops in Euguene. If there is a gourmet food store, try there. Or if you can't find it, email me at mphilli4ATuoregonDOTcom and I can send you some from here!

Good luck,