Sunday, July 28, 2013

nuntium centesimum undequadragesimum (139th post) Harissa

No tatting today.  (Well, of course I'm tatting but this is a food post).
For a bunch of plain Midwesterners, we eat strange food.  One of the family favorites is Moroccan couscous Royale.  My husband discovered this in France  and since I love to cook,  I figured I could make this.  Lots of research created a meal that takes me all day to make, my family about 20 minutes to eat and leftovers for a very happy week for my husband.  He takes it to school and warms it up there and has students trailing him around asking what that delightful smell is.
The key for my husband, the neighbor/college roommate of my husband and the brother-in-law is the harissa.  It's a kind of paste made from peppers, peppers and peppers.  You can buy it in some stores but that is usually a "hot" sauce/paste and instead of flavor, there is just burn.  Mine is a combination of several recipes and is a general crowd-pleaser although I don't eat it myself.  I'm told it doesn't burn but still packs a punch.  I've been asked for the recipe enough that I thought I'd do a picture version.  Don't laugh- I know one guy who will be making it soon. (Christopher!)
First you need 6oz of dried peppers.  I like to use ancho, guajillo and New Mexico.  If you look carefully, the packages are 3 oz each but it didn't seem to matter.

Rubber gloves make this more pleasant, especially later in the evening when you accidentally rub your eyes!
Boil enough water to cover the peppers with an inch of water above.  I just fill my teapot which makes plenty.
Cut open the peppers, remove seeds and ribs.
I cut them up into about 1-inch square don't worry if they're different shapes and sizes.
Pour the boiling water over and cover.

Rehydrate for 30 minutes or so.

You'll need cheesecloth.  You can buy it in fancy kitchen stores or your local hardware store in the paint section (much more cheaply).
Roast three red peppers.  (I get my husband to do this because I'm pathetic with the grill.)  After you blacken them all over, put in a paper bag, close and leave alone for 15 minutes.  I always put a plate under because the steam and juice will soak through and the red stains my white formica counter.

Remove black skin, seeds and ribs.

Chop into small pieces.  Place the red peppers on the cheesecloth.

Squeeze the daylights and juice out.

Now it's mush.  Place in food processor.

Grind up 2-3 cloves of garlic with 1/2 tsp salt.  (You'll notice more here because we're garlic freaks.)
Keep going.  It will almost look like mushy foam.
Now you need to grind up 2 tsp caraway seeds, 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp coriander.  You can buy them ground up but I think the flavor is better if you grind them yourself. 
You can use a clean pepper mill - or if you're like me and never use the coffee grinder,  just put them in it and grind in a minute.  Just don't plan to use it with coffee again.

Here are the finely ground herbs/spices.

Now take the cover off of the peppers in the hot water.  They smell wonderful.
I use a kitchen tongs to remove them from the still very hot water.

Place on previously used cheesecloth. (You don't need new stuff.)

Squeeze the rehydrated peppers- be careful, this is usually quite hot!
Place squeezed peppers and ground herbs/spice mixture in food processor with roasted red peppers.  Process while drizzling olive oil in.  (Approximate 1/4 cup)
This is what it should look like.
Before you put in your clean container...
coat interior with olive oil.

Even the sides.

Yum! (says my husband who always licks the spoon!)
Put a light layer of olive oil on the top before sealing container.  This will last several weeks in the refrigerator- unless it gets eaten first!


  1. My goodness - wow - what a lot of work! How is it eaten? Presumably not on toast with a poached egg on top......

    1. Hahahahaha! It goes on the couscous with the vegetables and meat. Both my husband and neighbor will also put it on their homemade pizzas.

  2. Maureen's comment has made me laugh, Being European and travelled to Moroccan and eat camel (no thank you) I know this dish is spicy unfortunately my stomach won't like it but the smell of it cooking is heavenly.
    It's amazing how long some if these dishes from Africa take to cook, being such a hot country you would think they would want simpler recipes.
    I hope you enjoyed dinner.

    1. Since I practically melted here making it, I can't imagine cooking it in Morocco! Ice cubes and popsicles would be it for me.

  3. Those are really nice tips, preparing the dried peppers like that is something that is done when making tamales. removing the seeds is where the unbearable hot comes from. Looks wonderful!

    1. Thanks! I felt a little goofy making it but so many people have asked, I thought I'd give it a try.

      Tamales- now there's a food I'd like to try to make!


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