Hello! I’m back! Well, I haven’t actually been anywhere. It’s more that ‘new job + big house move = no blogging’. I was quite surprised to receive a Facebook notification that someone had ‘liked’ my linked-up page on there (thank you Julie Rollins) and notice it had been just over three years since I last put up a recipe. A combination of that unexpected prompt and a conversation I had last week with a friend about doing what you love just because you love it has made me decide to revive my much neglected blog. I’ve never stopped cooking (and never will as long as I can reach the cooker and wield a chopping knife) so I’ve got lots of new stuff to catch up on but Im kicking off with this kick-ass harissa recipe at the request of my daughter, Rox.
Most harissa recipes use fresh chilli but mine uses dried because I think it gives a better kick and I personally prefer the taste. Similarly, most harissa recipes use red wine vinegar, perhaps to help it to keep for longer – but it really does not get the chance to go off and again, I prefer the taste of the fresh lime juice. The sauce goes beautifully with lamb but to be perfectly honest, it’s so divine that it goes quite well with a lot of things. Rox was threatening to eat some for breakfast!
- 4 or 5 red piquillo peppers or 3 medium red bell peppers
- 5 fat cloves garlic
- Juice of 3 limes
- 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes oaked in a small amount of boiled water
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 3 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
First, put your oven on it’s highest setting and let it get good and hot. When it has reached it’s maximum temperature put the peppers on a rack over a roasting pan and cook them until the skins are blackened, turning once during cooking. It will only take approximately 10 minutes. Blackening the skins intensifies the sweetness of the pepper’s flesh and gives it a wonderful smoky flavour. Some people do the job by placing the peppers on a naked gas flame but I find it makes too much mess and if you’ve got five peppers to char it’s much easier to just pop them in the oven and avoid having to stand there trying to blacken them evenly by constantly turning them on the flame.
While they are cooling, prepare the seeds by lightly toasting them in a dry non-stick pan over a medium heat until they begin to give off a fragrant aroma. Be careful, though, because they go from ‘nothing happening’ to burnt in the blink of an eye. Keep the seeds on the move by turning them over with a metal spoon.
Once the seeds are evenly toasted, grind them in a pestle and mortar or an electric grinder.
When the peppers have cooled, remove the stalk, rub the skins off, squeeze the seeds out and pop the flesh into a blender. Don’t worry if a bit of skin clings on or a few pepper seeds find their way into the blender. It won’t do any harm or make any difference to the taste.
Finally, throw all the ingredients into the blender along with the peppers and whizz them until they are a consistency you like. I’ve read lots of recipes that says harissa has to be smooth. Nonsense. It’s your harissa, have it however you like it and also, don’t be put off making it if you, say, don’t have the smoked paprika or the coriander seeds or whatever. It’s still going to be delicious minus or even plus a few things. Recipes are an idea, not set in stone, so knock yourself out and have fun.
It’s good to be taking photos and writing about food again!