Harissa from Tunisia
Harissa is a spicy red chili sauce from Tunisia. It is also common in Algeria, Libya and Morocco. Red chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic cloves and herbs are ground together to a paste to make this sauce and oil is used as a preservative. it is the national condiment of Tunisia and the largest producer and exporter of Harissa.
Harissa is used as an ingredient in fish & meat stews, as a marinade for meats and is also used as a sauce to top shawarma & gyros. This a versatile sauce that can serve many purposes.
I have tasted harissa in restaurants but have not cooked with it or made it at home before. This week’s theme for Buffet on Table gave me an opportunity to make my own harissa at home.
There are many versions and variations to this sauce depending on the region and from household to household. Regardless of variations, the common ingredients are red chilies, garlic, coriander and cumin seeds. I made the sauce to suit my palate.
Total Time: 35 – 50 minutes
Soaking Time: 30 – 45 minutes
Preparation: 5 minutes
Yields: 4 – 5 tablespoons
- 12 Dry Red Chilies, approx. ½ cup when each chili was broken into two pieces)
- 1 ½ tsp. Coriander Seeds
- ¾ tsp. Cumin Seeds
- ¾ tsp. Caraway Seeds ~ Shah Jeera
- 3 Garlic Cloves
- 6 – 8 Mint Leaves
- ¾ – 1 tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 tbsp. Lime Juice
- 2 tbsp. Olive Oil + 1 tbsp. if storing in the fridge for few days
- Take red chilies in a bowl and pour boiling water over the chilies. Chilies should immerse in water. Let the chilies soak for 30 – 45 minutes until chilies are soft.
- Grind together coriander seeds, cumin and caraway seeds to powder. This step can be skipped. I chose to do this as I wanted the spices to blend into the sauce and did not want coarse seeds in the sauce.
- Remove the seeds from the chilies for milder sauce. I left in the seeds but discarded the seeds that fell off in water when soaking.
- After the chilies are soaked and soft, take in a blender or a food processor. Add garlic, mint leaves, cumin coriander caraway powder, salt and grind to paste.
- Add lime juice, 2 tbsp of olive oil and pulse to mix in the lime juice.
- I chose to grind the chilies to a fine paste but it can also be kept coarse. Since I did not deseed the chilies, I wanted the seeds to blend into the sauce and had to grind to fine paste.
- Taste the sauce and adjust lime juice and salt.
- If storing the sauce for few days, pour additional 1tbsp. of oil and store in the fridge.
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