If you don’t like spicy things, you probably don’t need to read any further. I don’t usually dissuade people from reading my posts, but this is hands-down the spiciest thing we have ever made. Bring tears to your eyes, burn your mouth, fire-breathing spicy.* But that’s the fun part about it! We love our spicy foods, as I’m sure you can tell, so it did not surprise me in the least when Will said he was going to attempt to make homemade harissa. Me being the lover of spicy things slightly more than Will, highly encouraged this decision. He decided to make it to go along with a tagine dinner we were making for two of our lovely neighbors, who are willing to try most things we cook. Only slightly before they arrived to eat, the harissa was done and we tested it. Needless to say, we were equally shocked as to what Will had made in that tiny little Mason jar! It really only seemed edible in the smallest of doses, which in a way actually makes it kind of perfect.
So when our neighbors came up to eat, we vehemently warned them about the spiciness of the harissa. After serving ourselves our dinner, we each put the teeniest bit on our couscous to taste how it went with actual food, not just off a spoon. It was a little milder and we all indulged the harissa a little bit. Our one neighbor absolutely loved it and doused most of his meal in it and was sweating a bit by the end of the dinner. If that doesn’t warn you, then I don’t know what will! Either way, we’ve kept it in our refrigerator for about a month now and use it here and there and it seems to have gotten milder. Just beware when you first make it that you will want to only have a little at a time!
*Fire-breathing is an actual symptom of making this harissa.
Cooking Notes: We used ground spices, though the original called for whole. We also used Thai red chiles, which may have something to do with how spicy it was…We also used some of the “optional additions” The Kitchn suggested. Click on the recipe below to see more!
Homemade Harissa (adapted from The Kitchn; makes ~ 1 cup)
4 oz. dried chiles (your choice)
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp EV olive oil, plus more to store harissa
Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water, then let stand for 30 minutes to soften. Prep your spices while the chiles sit. Once the chiles have sat, drain them and reserve the liquid for later use. Remove and discard the stems of the chiles, then remove the seeds (be careful and make sure you don’t rub your eyes at any point during this step – wear gloves if you need to!). Combine the chiles, spices, garlic and salt in a food processor. Begin to run the processor on low, slowly drizzling in the olive oil to make a smooth, but thick, paste. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Taste test and adjust to your liking. Once satisfied with the flavor, transfer to a jar (like a Mason jar) and top with a thin layer of olive oil before storing. Refrigerate for up to a month and enjoy!
Recipe: The Kitchn: How to make Harissa