There was a time in my life when I could pick up a chilli, bite into it and not have to worry about the consequences. Yes it smacked my mouth with its heat, but stomach cramps never hit me several hours later.
Gone are the days.
Somehow, with age and a very slight onset of intolerance to such fiery heat, I find myself lowering the heat factor a tad when cooking requires a chilli or two.
I still remember the days when chillies, freshly picked from my dad’s garden, were a staple condiment on the dinner table. My very early teens, to be precise. In between mouthfuls of whatever the main dish may have been, you’d crunch into the chilli, dip the tip into salt and bite it again. I’m not sure if it’s a Croatian thing, but it sure was a family thing.
So here I am making harissa, that fiery Tunisian paste that packs a real punch. Yes it’s easy to buy a jar of it, but it doesn’t require that much more work to make it yourself.
Seeing my stomach is a little more precious of late, I’ve reduced the quantity of chillies that usually go into it. It’s still hot, mind you, just not to the point of making you gag for air.
The combination of dried arbol chillies, several tiny little scuds – or chiltepins that a friend sent to me from Tucson, Arizona – and aromatic spices makes for a really tasty condiment.
What can you serve harissa with? Well, just about anything. Fish, meats, on vegetables – anywhere you may want a bit of heat.
Recipes where I’ve used harissa paste / butter –