There is always going to be another trend, another food hype rearing up as if from nowhere and all of a sudden it’s everywhere. Coconut, avocados, yuzu….the list goes on. Well, I am sticking my neck out and calling the next trend; harissa.
Thats right. You read it here first. From now on everywhere you go you will see harissa on the menu, at the supermarket, on the sides of buses...you get the gist.
So, what is harissa? It is a hot chilli paste made with roasted red peppers and a combination of spices and chilli. There are a hugely wide variety of combinations, based on region and ingredient availability, not to mention individual tastes and preferences. Generally speaking, a harissa paste base recipe includes coriander, saffron, garlic, cumin, caraway and vegetable oil for preservation.
With origins from North Africa it is quite literally the flavour base for many curries and dishes, meat based and equally vegetarian in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco.
Harissa is full of big, bright flavours that really pack a punch and adds an earthy, smoky, downright mysterious level of spice. Dip your toe into the ‘up and coming’ trend by pick up a jar in your supermarket, or jump right in and make your very own paste at home.
1 red pepper
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 hot red chilli , deseeded and chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Grill the red pepper either in the oven, on the grill, or carefully over the open flame on a gas hob until it is charred on all sides. Then, whilst still hot place the pepper it in a glass bowl and cover with cling film for 10 minutes. This will making peeling the skin off the pepper much easier! Peel and deseed and reserve for later.
In a dry frying pan, roast all the seeds until aromatic and slightly browned, approx 3-5 minutes. Toss continuously to avoid burning.
Tip into a mortar and crush the seeds using a pestle into a rough powder. You can also use a spice grinder if available.
Next, in a small blender or with a stick blender, combine the roasted pepper flesh, tomato paste, chilli and seeds together until a rough paste-like consistency is reached. Season with lemon juice, salt and olive oil to taste.