Cookbook Profile


When the harissa paste is passed around, use this traditional Tunisian blend with extreme caution, the key ingredient being an abundance of chili. Harissa is made with dried chilies as their complexity of flavor is more appropriate than fresh ones. To make harissa paste, blend the following ingredients then crush in a pestle and mortar until a thick paste is formed:


3-1/3 tbsp (50 mL) dried chili flakes,
     soaked in the same amount of hot water
1-2/3 tbsp (25 mL) crushed garlic
1-2/3 tbsp (25 mL) sweet paprika
2 tsp (10 mL) each of caraway seed and coriander seed
1 tsp (5 mL) of cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground
1 tsp (5 mL) of salt
6 spearmint leaves finely chopped

Another Tunisian blend, tabil is made in the same way except it contains no paprika or cumin, making it relatively hotter. Traditionally harissa is used with cooked meats such as kebabs and appears on the table as a ubiquitous sauce in a small dish in the same way chili sauce appears on the table in Singapore. As well as using it as an alternative to chili sauce, I love to use harissa on cold meat sandwiches as a spicy alternative to mustard. Harissa is delicious on crusty bread that has been spread with humos. The Yemeni seasoning known as zhug is similar to harissa, and is made by adding 1/2 a teaspoon (2 mL) each of cloves and green cardamom seed to the above recipe.


The Spice and Herb Bible
A Cook's Guide
by Ian Hemphill
March 2002; 512 pages; 7" x 10"
32 pages of full-color photographs, index
ISBN 0-7788-0042-3 paperback $27.95 in Canada / $22.95 in USA
ISBN: 0-7788-0047-4 hardcover $37.95 in Canada / $35.00 US
Robert Rose Inc.
Distributed in North America by Firefly Books.
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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This page created June 2002, modified 2007