OK you know that Harissa actually comes from Tunisia not Morocco - we won't bore you with that. It's the most popular seasoning in Tunisia mixed with water or tomato juice to go into soups or stews and to add flavour to couscous. You'll find it in little tins, big tins, toothpaste tubes. It's to Tunisian grocery shops what tomato paste is in Southern Italy, Greece or Turkey. It's made from roasted red peppers, sometimes specific varieties and blended with a paste of olive oil, chilli, garlic, cumin, coriander and caraway. To taste caraway again you'll have to jump a long way North to Germany, Poland and Scandinavia. With the noble exception of British Seed Cake.
The paste is extremely useful but so is the spice blend itself with paprika standing in for the cooked peppers. We're very fond of harissa and use it in two of our favourite products: Red Pepper Couscous and Salt & Aromatics Rose Harissa Salt.
Red Pepper Couscous is the variety we've been making the longest and it's the one we'll use whenever we want to make a simple salad or if we've made a fiery, oniony lamb tagine with orange juice and black olives and are looking for something to serve it with. Red Pepper Couscous follows the North African tradition of including dried fruit in savoury dishes and in this case plump, sweet sultanas. To thoroughly gild the lily we also add sunflowers seeds, a favourite Mahgrebi snack.
If it's outdoor eating weather rather than stew weather the same couscous makes the basis of a lovely salad with a bit of a spicy kick. You could add cubes of feta (or beyaz peynir if you have a Turkish grocer nearby), those black olives again and some chopped up sundried tomato in oil. Just the sort of things you may well keep in the fridge. Some shredded leaves of mint from the garden will add a contrast of flavour and colour.
To make up one of our couscouses put the whole tub in a heat-proof serving bowl, boil a kettle and when the water comes off the boil pour over 270ml. Mix it all up well with a fork. Cover with a cloth and leave five minutes before stirring the mix up again with a fork to break up any lumps. Then add a glug of EVOO and mix it around to blend. At this stage you can adjust the seasoning since we tend to under-salt. Most instant couscous like this is made in France and you'll be surprised at how well it bulks up. One tub is enough for a good salad for two or a side dish for three or four.
Rose Harissa's become increasingly popular but we look at this as a finishing spice - the flavours of rose can be kiiled by long cooking and cooked petals look disappointing. We used to use rose petals in a mix of baby figs, black cardamom, cassia, black tea leaves and bitter orange peel to which you added orange juice and honey and cooked into a compote. Luckily the dark sweet sauce made the petals look just brown rather than sad and grey.
Flavoured salts are very much our thing - we love them. You may well end up using less salt thanks to the aromatics in the blend. At any rate if you don't like salt for whatever reason - look away now! Our Rose Harissa salt has all the usual ingredients and a pinch of fiery cayenne instead of the crushed chilli used in the couscous blend.
Our salt is an enhancer of flavour for all kinds of dishes that you can season just before you serve and we'd include in this root vegetable or pea soup, roast carrrots, roast squash, salads of white cheese and watermelon or pomegranate, cucumber salad, hummus bi tahina, tzaziki, sauteed courgettes, white bean dip, haricot bean salad or our favourite orange salad where you interleave slices of orange with cucumber, shavings of fennel or a take on Lebanese Malfouf; finely shredded white cabbage with lemon juice , olive oil, garlic and normally mint but we replace it with our Rose Harissa Salt. It looks lovely, too.
Last but not least use it on Shakshuka. Hold off on the salt as you cook then season the eggs on top so the spices and the salt can be stirred in together.
Thank you for sharing our ideas on seasoning food. It's what we live for. This is our first blog post so it's something that's going to evolve with no doubt more and better pictures and whole recipes. And it starts here!