I’ve just been on holiday in Espana. Yes, I have, for two weeks doing sod all other than wondering what I wanted for dinner and whether I had the energy to take the parasol down. I could hardly be bothered to take a shower on my return from the beach, like a petulant child on a Sunday night before school, then as always, once I was in I didn’t want to come out. Once out, I’d waft round in a dressing gown, supping on Rioja, with my hair in a towel. “What will I wear? Oh my deary deary me, maybe a caftan, maybe a jumpsuit, oh what a task,”, then collapse onto the bed, slurping my wine. After half an hour of the same charade, my daughter, dressed and ready to go, would come in; “Mum can we go out now I’m hungry?”. I’d put on the same thing I mainly always wore. “Yes of course, I’m exhausted and famished”.
So what I’m trying to get at is, a recipe for Harissa if you hadn’t already guessed. The signposts were there, you have to be astute. In my gaff in Manchester we used to buy the cute little yellow and red tins and then discovered a DIY recipe from Moro. Unlike making your own aioli, it’s an easy way to high praise, bunging it all in and whizzing it up. Then it’s Harissa with this and that, on your cereal, in the bath, at weddings, whatever floats your barco.
250g long fresh red chillies
3 heaped tsp coarsely ground caraway seeds
3 heaped tsp coarsely ground cumin seeds
1 level tsp ground black cumin seeds (optional)
4 garlic cloves
100g piquillo peppers, or 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 dsp tomato purée
1 dsp red wine vinegar
2 level tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
It is advisable to wear rubber gloves when preparing the chillies. Slice the chillies in half lengthways. Lay each chilli on a chopping board cut-side up, gently scrape away the seeds with a teaspoon and discard them. Roughly chop the chillies and transfer to a food processor with a sharp blade. Blend the chillies with a pinch of salt, half of each of the spices and the garlic cloves until smooth. Then add the peppers and blend. It is important that the paste is as smooth as possible. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Now add the remaining ingredients – the rest of the spices, the peppers, tomato purée, vinegar, paprika and olive oil. Taste and season with more salt to balance out the vinegar. Harissa keeps well in the fridge, but be sure to cover it with a little olive oil to seal it from the air.
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