Moroccan Harissa Chili Paste Recipe with Fresh Peppers
Harissa paste is a North African chili paste with different spices from family to another. Originally Tunisian, you will find it used and sold across the Maghreb countries.This version of harissa is made using fresh cayenne peppers for heat but also fresh sweet pepper (pointy ones) for body and sweetness. The recipe is fairly versatile. Each family adjusts the heat to their liking according to intended use. In Morocco, we like to add preserved lemons to the mix.
Wash both kinds of peppers. Discard all the seeds and white membrane inside the sweet red pepper and most of the seeds in the hot chili.
Coarsely chop the sweet red peppers. Use gloves while chopping the hot chili peppers.
Place all ingredients, except the oil, in a deep heavy-bottomed pot and add about 1 cup of water. Cover and let simmer for 15- 20 minutes.
Blend all ingredients to a paste and transfer to a saucepan or frying pan. Place over medium heat and add the oil.
Keep stirring until all the water has evaporated and the sauce looks like a thick paste. Set aside to cool completely.
Place the harissa sauce/paste in sterilized jars and keep in the fridge for up to a few weeks.
You could also freeze all or some of the harissa. Pour it into a Ziploc and flatten it so portions can be broken off. Or use ice cube silicone trays; when frozen, transfer the cubes to a plastic bag.
Instead of tenderizing the peppers by simmering, they can be steamed instead then blended with the rest of the ingredients. Some people also like to concentrate flavors by cooking the peppers in the oven. Roasting helps makes it easy to skin the peppers, which gives a smoother harissa.
Harissa is served with fish and other dishes. We also use it to spice up some salads and stews.