This spice mixture is used principally as a condiment in the North African cooking of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. When making this mixture, decide how hot you want the mixture to be by your selection of dried pepper. I would not recommend using all chipotle (dried jalapeno) peppers unless you really want some heat. We used a mixture of cascabel and arbol peppers for an averaging of heat and smoky flavor. The recipe comes from Sallie Morris and Lelsley Mackley’s book The Spice Ingredient Cookbook, page 98. The recipe calls for hand grinding of the ingredients; we found using a food processor (and spice grinder for the seeds) satisfactory. Commercial harissa is also available in many grocery and specialty stores.
12 dried chilies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves
½ tsp salt
4-6 tbsp olive oil
1. Discard the stems and some of the seeds from the chilies, then soak the chilies in warm water for 30 minutes, until softened.
2. Meanwhile, dry fry the coriander and cumin seeds to bring out the flavor (about 2 minutes on medium heat) and grind them to a powder.
3. Pound the garlic with the salt, then add the drained chilies and pound the mixture until it is smooth.
4. Add the spices and gradually pound in the oil, trickling it in and mixing until the sauce is well blended and of a mayonnaise-like consistency.
5. Use the harissa at once or transfer to an airtight jar. Flood the surface with a little more olive oil to make a seal. Cover closely and store in a cool place or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Makes ½ cup.