Harissa paste is a Tunisian chilli paste, although you can also find it in the cuisines of Morocco, Libya and Algeria. Its intense, hot flavour is thanks to hot chilli peppers; usually Serrano chillies are used, but you can use whatever hot red pepper you like. In this recipe, I’ve used aji chombo chillies, as these are very common in Panama and are hot as you’d like. These are also known as scotch bonnets, or yellow lantern chillies despite the fact that they can come in both yellow-orange and red varieties.
Harissa needs a smoky flavour, in my mind, and in this recipe we achieve that by using smoked paprika and by charring our chillies over an open flame. This is quick and easy, but be sure to take care of your little fingers, and don’t have any flammable creams on your hands when you do it.
(Makes 1 small batch)
2 aji chombo (or 3-4 less hot red chillies)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Char your aji chombos over an open flame to blacken the skins. You can also roast them until the skins blacken, if you prefer
Remove the seeds and stems of the chillies. I’d recommend using gloves here
Place into a food processor or clean coffee grinder with all the other ingredients and pulse until it becomes a smooth paste
Add more olive oil until it reaches your preferred consistency
Place into a sealed container and keep in the fridge for up to a week
I’ll be posting a recipe that uses Harissa paste this week, but if you’re keen to try it out, one of my favourite ways is to quick fry some tomato slices in olive oil and Harissa paste and then add in some fresh basil. Serve on rye bread; it’s incredible.