Sunday, April 15, 2012

Salt-Free Harissa

Harissa is a hot chili sauce that originated in Tunisia. We use it mainly to make tagines (North African stews), but have had to get it via mail order since it is too exotic for most grocery stores. Since this is kind of a pain, we decided to make our own. After synthesizing about six different recipes, this is the one we came up with:

Harissa (makes enough to fill a small jelly jar, and will keep for one month in the refrigerator)

4 oz dried red chili peppers (such as guajillo, ancho, etc. - we used California chiles)
10 cloves garlic
1 T whole coriander seed
1 T whole cumin seed
1 t whole caraway seed
2 T lemon juice
olive oil

Soak the dried chiles in very hot water for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then drain.

Meanwhile, toast the seeds in a dry skillet until they pop and become fragrant. Grind the toasted spices to a fine powder. (We use a dedicated coffee bean grinder for this, but you could use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor.)

Pulse the chiles, garlic, spice mix and lemon juice in a food processor. Add oil as necessary to bring the consistency to a thick liquid paste. When the ingredients are thoroughly processed, use a small spatula to transfer the contents to a small jar. Add a thin layer of oil to the top of the sauce so that none of it is exposed to air. Cover and refrigerate.

Use 1-2 T at a time to add flavor and heat to soups and stews.

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