Harissa Paste is a Moroccan spicy red sauce made of simple ingredients with a wonderfully smoky hot flavor. It generally consists of red chilies, garlic, oil, vinegar, and different kinds of spices. You can buy the Harissa Paste at the store, but it will be different if you make it yourself. In addition, homemade Harissa Paste has the advantage of allowing you to adjust its spiciness to suit your taste.
Typically, harissa is used as a dip or marinade to add stunning color and a hot flavor to food. But the fact is this authentic smoky-spicy red sauce would be perfect with everything from Scrambled Eggs to Barbeque Meats, Stews, and Roasted Vegetables.
There are many Harissa recipes in different North African regions, but the basic method is to blend chilies, spices, garlic, and olive oil. These are the inseparable ingredients of Harissa.
The basic traditional spices of Harissa include cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and caraway seeds. You better toast these spices for the ideal flavor. Prepare your food processor to make a homemade Harissa Paste.
Put the dried chilies in a heat-safe mixing bowl, cover, and steam with hot water to submerge. Set aside for 20 minutes until the chilies are tender. This will help to rehydrate the peppers. Then, drain the chilies and remove the stems and seeds. It is better to wear gloves to protect your hands directly touching the hot peppers for this step.
Add cumin and coriander seeds to a small pan and toast for a few minutes over medium heat until fragrant. Then transfer to a mortar and crush into a fine powder.
Now, put in smoked paprika, minced garlic, caraway seeds, and salt to mix. Then add lemon juice and vinegar and mix them well together until you’ve got a fine paste. Pour the final paste into the food processor and add in the tomato paste.
Then add the rehydrated and deseeded chilies to the food processor. Now, all the Harissa Paste ingredients should be in the food processor except olive oil. Run the food processor, and blend for 1-2 minutes. While it’s running, stream in the extra virgin olive oil from the top opening.
Scrape down the sides as needed until you have the desired paste-like consistency. Taste the paste and adjust seasonings as you prefer. You can add more lemon juice or vinegar for acidity or more paprika for smokiness.
Scoop the Harissa into a clean jar. Pour a very thin layer of extra virgin olive oil on top, then cover tightly and refrigerate.
When you are adjusting the seasoning, you should remember that Harissa will deepen in flavor as it sits in the refrigerator over time.
If you want to store the Harissa in the freezer, the best way is to scoop it into the ice cube tray. You can keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months and add the cubes directly to warm foods. If you want to add the frozen cubes of Harissa to cold foods, you should thaw before adding.
In the case of using fresh chilies, you should add twice as much fresh as dried. However, it is better to use a mix of fresh and dried chilies.