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Friday, 8 March 2013

Harissa...A Prequel

Wow, that was quick.
I mean, barely 12 hours post facto, and I have all sorts of messages in my inbox - some asking me if I am ok (yeah, yeah, I'm just peachy, thanks) - but mostly asking me how one finds Harissa!!!

Bloody demanding lot aren't you?

Just kidding :)

I'm awfully flattered of course. You know that hearing from you lot ALWAYS makes my day!
And I'm not very bright, but I think if you're asking me how one finds Harissa, you're reading my post on Harissa Chicken and Rocket. Which pleasures, thrills and delights me beyond all known vocabulary.

Right. Well.
So, "how do you make Harissa...?"you ask...
Well, the truth is, I don't. I just do the lazy thing and buy Harissa from the store, but as I've just learned, not everyone has Harissa at their store?
Which is absolutely fair enough.
You don't have Harissa at your store?
I don't have alphonso mangoes at my store.
And Gees-Louise folks, much as I love Harissa, you know which side of that trade I'd rather be on...

Anyway, now, I don't not make my own Harissa because it's too hard. Because it's not. It's actually quite easy. And it's well worth making one's own Harissa frankly. For that matter, it's well worth making one's own anything. But then, I would say that, wouldn't I? Well, the truth of the matter is that I don't (make my own Harissa, that is) simply because I love my store bought one too much!! It's Belazu's Rose Harissa, and if you can get your grubby little paws on some, please do, you won't be disappointed.

But if you can't, then well read on, brave warriors!

Right, so before we start - a word of caution: I made this ages and ages ago, when I was like, five. So I really don't remember how it turned out. Well, not five (I do love to exaggerate), but nineteen, perhaps? Honestly, I am retyping a recipe off of a tatterred old notebook that looks like it was chewed by dinosaurs, from my university days. That's about when I went through a can't-live-without-middle-eastern-food phase. Which I think, was due in no small part, to an unnamed dashingly handsome middle-eastern boy that I was fluttering my (not so long) lids at...

(If you're curious, that didn't amount to anything. But hopefully, that's not a reflection of my Harissa...)

So here goes nothing!

Here's what you need:
- 5 dried red chillies
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 cloves garlic
- Bunch fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 50ml extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste

Here's how you do it:
First discard the seeds from the red chillies, then soak in water to soften - this should take about an hour. Drain and set aside.  

Heat a pan red hot till it smokes, then throw in the caraway seeds. Remove the pan from the heat immediately, give it a shake and set aside. When cool, grind them roughly with a mortar and pestle and keep aside. 

Place the garlic and chillies on a chopping board,  sprinkle with the salt, and chop together until you come to a paste - I just use my hands. have a rough-looking paste. Now, put the paste into a bowl and 
stir in the coriander, paprika, cumin and crushed caraway seeds. Fold in the oil and mix well.

And...that's all there is to it. I think.

By the way, this is a pretty versatile recipe. You can make it with red capsicum instead of chillies, add in tomatoes, a bit of both. Or all three. Actually the lovely folk at Arabica Food & Spice sell a fresh Harissa with whole walnuts that is making me dribble onto my bib right now. (What? You didn't know I wear a bib??). 

No, really, its amazing. It's not a marinade, but more mezze, meant to eat as is, right out of the pot, with a hot, fresh off the oven pitta. They sell at Borough Market every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at Selfridges food court every day. Go if you're local - you can do a quick lunch of 3 mezzes + flatbread for 5 or 6 quid...absolutely delicious stuff!

But if you can't justify the plane ride all the way here just for an Arabica & co Harissa lunch (no matter no delicious), don't worry.
At least you've got mine. 
So smile.
You look pretty when you smile :)

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