Harissa is a hot sauce or paste that is common in Tunisia, Morocco and France. It typically accompanies couscous to spice things up, but you can use it with anything.
I love this stuff and buy it in cans and tubes like the one below. Recently, it has become more common in the UK and in the US and you can find various brands in stores like Whole Foods. But they are not the real thing like the one in the tube, and often have a huge variation in flavor and heat profiles.
A while ago, I came across a recipe for homemade harissa. While it is a fair amount of work, it does yield good results and uses readily available ingredients.
You will need:
50 grams of dried chilies (El Guapo brand Japones works well).
1 whole head of garlic, with each clove skinned (yeah the whole thing).
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway
1/2 teaspoon salt
Step 1: Weigh out the dried chilies.
Step 2: Wearing gloves (trust me), remove and dispose of any stalks and deseed the chilies. There will be plenty of heat without the seeds!
Step 3: You’ll be left with a bunch of chili seeds and some of the skin. You can save these and use when recipes call for crushed red pepper.
Step 4: Soak the dried chilies in hot water for about 1 hour.
Step 5: Peel the garlic and remove the hard bottoms and any brown parts.
Step 6: Drain the chilies.
Step 7: Combine chilies with garlic and dried spices in a food processor.
Step 8: Add sufficient olive oil so that you have a paste. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth but you want to avoid large pieces of skin.
Step 9: Keep in a sterilized glass jar. You may wish to pour enough olive oil to cover the top of the harissa.