As I started exploring new foods and new cuisines, i started noticing the similarities between these cuisines and the Indian Cuisine I grew up with. For example the cuisine of North African countries, be in Morocco or Tunisia, there were many dishes that looked identical to what I have seen in some parts of India like Rajasthan . In such areas where the water is scarce, there is abundant use of dry spices and dry vegetables. That cuisines also uses a lot of lentils. So when I stumbled upon Harissa, it reminded of the garlic chutney we typically get in Rajasthan, the desert state of India.
So anytime I see fresh red chilies in the market, my first thought is, let’s make harissa.
As with many dishes, there are many variations of Harissa. My version is based on what I ate and then added some more heat since I love spicy food. I have made it with just fresh chilies and a mixture of fresh and dried chilies. I like the version with the dried chilies better. If you make it with just the fresh chilies the color is a vibrant bright red, whereas if you add the dried chilies, you get more of a brick red color. I also add roasted bell pepper sometimes if I want a mellower harissa.
2 Dried guajillo chilies
1 Dried Chipotle chili
1 dried ancho chili
1 dried Negro chili
2 cup of boiling hot water
7-8 fresh red chilies
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp caraway seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
salt to taste
In a large bowl place all the dried chilies and pour the hot water over these. Let them sit and get soft for about 20 min. I love using the dried smoky chipotle and guajillo, these lend not only the heat but a nice smoky flavor to the dish. I also use these chilies in the enchilada sauce I make
Chop the fresh red chiles, try and shake off as many seeds as you can. If you don’t like much spicy food, you can remove all the seeds.
Dry roast the caraway seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Using mortar and pestle make powder.
Take out the stem and seeds from the dried-rehydrated chilies. In a food processor blend the dry chilies,fresh red chilies, garlic with salt. Add as much oil as needed. Add the roasted and ground spices.
Your Harissa is ready.
I will be making a couple of things with it-
Chicken kabob with yogurt and Harissa
Harissa Cheese Muffins
A. With Red bell pepper- You can add a roasted red bellpepper to make a milder version of Harissa
1 Red bell pepper
Roast the red bell pepper on an open fame till it has black spots, turning occasionally to get a good roast all around. Cover them in a bowl, this makes removing the skin easy. Add with the rest of the chilies in the food processor.
I love mint, sometimes I add 1/2 tsp of dried mint to my Harissa. You can add it at the end with the rest of the ground spices.