Tuesday, November 27, 2018

RECIPE: Harissa - North African Chile Sauce

I use this whenever a recipe calls for "hot sauce".

This recipe is a combination of several that I've used over the years.  We like highly seasoned food so I stock many spices and always have these on hand.  If you don't like mint or caraway, just leave them out.  At a minimum, you need to use cumin, garlic and either fennel or anise. 

Harissa - North African Chile Sauce
Makes about 1 cup
1.5 T. ground red peppers*
1.5 T. crushed red peppers
1.5 T. paprika
2 T. ground cumin or 8 t. cumin seeds
1 T. ground coriander or 4 t. coriander seeds
1 t. ground fennel or 1.25 t. fennel seeds
1/2 t. ground caraway or rounded 1/2 t. caraway seeds
1/2 t. dried moroccan mint
1/4 t. ground anise
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 t. garlic powder**
1/2 t. himalayan pink salt
1/2 c. EVOO
1/4 c. lemon juice

If you are using whole seeds: On medium heat, toast the cumin, coriander, fennel and caraway seeds in a dry skillet, stirring often, until light brown and fragrant.  Cool.  Grind as fine as possible.

Mix all the spices with the lemon juice and stir to make a paste.  Gradually add the EVOO.

Let it rest for a day before serving to develop the flavor.  

I keep ours in the fridge in a tall narrow glass jar, pressing the solids down so the oil rises to the top.  As long as there is always a thin layer of oil over the top, it will keep for months.  When you use some, dig down past the oil and then make sure enough oil returns to the surface before storing.  Top it up if you need to.

The odd angle of the photo above was necessary to show the composition of the sauce.  You can see the flavored oil resting on the top.

*Chose the variety of pepper based on how hot you want this to be.  I have made it with habanero and african bird peppers for a searingly hot sauce, and with ancho chiles for a very mild sauce.  Our favorite is cayenne which is middle of the road.  When the sauce is too hot you can only use a little bit and then you miss out on all the other flavors.

**If you use fresh garlic, you will need to saute it lightly in ghee first.

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