“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Monday, March 28, 2011


Well, I only had one person take a stab at what this was...

Somebody named Iris said it looked like sambal oelek, which is an Indonesian chili paste made by cooking chilies with brown sugar and then crushing and mashing them to a smooth consistency. However, even though this was a damn good answer, it was not the correct one. Sorry about that, Iris!

It is in fact Harissa. Never heard of Harissa? That's why I'm here.

Harissa, sometimes called 'the ketchup of Tunisia', is a North African hot chilli sauce whose main ingredients are Piri piri chili peppers, serrano pepper or other hot chillies and olive oil. It is a standard ingredient of North African cuisine, usually associated with Tunisia and Algeria, but recently also making inroads in Morocco. In fact where I work at COOK we have a delicious dish, one of the more popular ones, called Moroccan Harissa Chicken. It's lovely - spicy, but not overpoweringly so, and tamed by the addition of dates and apricots in the sauce.
Recipes for harissa vary according to the household and region. Variations can include the addition of cumin, red peppers, garlic, coriander, and lemon juice. In Saharan regions, harissa can have a smoky flavor. Prepared harissa is also sold in nearly every style of container, including jars, cans, bottles, tubes, and plastic bags.

In Tunisia, harissa is used as an ingredient in a meat (goat or lamb) or fish stew with vegetables, and as a flavoring for couscous. It is also used for lablabi, a popular chickpea soup usually eaten for breakfast. In the West it is eaten with pasta, in sandwiches and on pizza. In some European countries it is popular as a breakfast spread for tartines or rolls. Harissa paste can be also used as a rub for meat or aubergine.

I always enjoy going to Farmer's Markets and one face that's a regular fixture at both Rolvenden and Horsmonden, among others, is John Milbank of Milbank Olives.
On his stall he usually has a selection of six to eight olives, mostly pitted. The olives mainly come from France, Italy, Spain and Morocco. His Mediterranean Specials consist of Garlic with Herbs and Chilli, Semi-Dried Tomatoes, Artichokes, Antipasto, Smoked Chilli Jelly, Rose Harissa, Green and Red Pesto. He also carries a lovely mixture he calls Johnnie's mix, which came about entirely by accident one day when he was making some Red Pesto and some Rose Harissa accidentally spilled into it. Instead of chucking it out, he tried it, found it was good and figured 'hey - perhaps other folks'll like it too'. It's been a regular product of theirs ever since. You can call him on 01233 732668 or come to one of the farmer's markets - Rolvenden is every Thursday morning in the village hall.

So - let's have a harissa recipe or two, shall we?

There are a ton of good ones here at the BBC Good Food website, and you can customise by calories, cuisine, ingredients... give it a whirl.

Similarly, a search for recipes using harissa on Food.com turned up 187 of them!

OK folks, what's the new Name This Food! food?

Name it!


  1. Belgian endive!

    I love Harissa, but the version I've seen (of which I'm sure there are many) was a far more oily, smooth, viciously dark red/purple that comes in a tub. It makes a mean sandwich.

  2. Ahh, I see now you mentioned Rose Harissa - that's the one. Beautiful stuff.


Come on and chew the fat!


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