Harissa – Not the Name of a Cheerleader
It’s hot but it doesn’t wear a skirt. The ubiquitous presence of this spicy chili paste condiment on family tables across north Africa traces its origin to the Spanish conquest of the New World. From an NPR story following the Arab Spring of 2012 – “Chilies were cultivated and eaten in Mexico thousands of years ago by the Aztecs and the Mayans, and further south in Peru, by the Incas. They were valued as a stimulant with culinary and medicinal benefits. But it wasn’t until Christopher Columbus and crew arrived that pepper fever really took off. The spice-seeking Spanish and Portuguese shipped chilies back to Europe and thence to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Africa, India and Southeast Asia.”
Harissa is a versatile staple in Moroccan and Tunisian cuisine with endless regional variations. They all feature a mix of ground peppers with garlic, oil, salt and spices, typically coriander and caraway. Other likely suspects include cumin, mint, and/or an acid component like lemon, lime or vinegar. Often found alongside chickpeas, soft-boiled eggs, fish stews and flatbread, we featured this fiery ketchup with our take on kuftas, grass-fed goat meatballs that are traditionally cooked in a tagine or conical clay steaming vessel.
The reviews at our weekend Farmers Market tasting were nothing short of remarkable. Several folks wanted the recipe and we are happy to continue our efforts to expand broad-based retail demand for chevon beyond Hispanic, Greek & Muslim ethnic enclaves. Goat is the most popular red meat in the world and.
The key is toasting your spices and using a mix of peppers for interesting flavor and desired heat profile. We started with a mix of around 20 dried Ancho, guajillo, pequin, and New Mexico peppers. You could also use arbol or cayenne. Deseed and rehydrate by pouring boiling water over peppers and leave to steep for an hour or more. Remove skins if you can. Toast 1 T coriander, 1 T caraway and 1 t cumin seeds for 4 minutes in a dry pan shaking frequently or constantly to prevent scorching. Should smell toasty and fragrant. Grind in a spice mill or coffee grinder cleaned by wiping down and grinding a handful of dry rice (you can toast pre-ground spices if you don’t have whole seed). Put everything into food processor with 8 cloves of smashed garlic with 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 t white pepper and juice of 1 lime. Drizzle in olive oil while grinding to medium thick paste, pausing to wipe down sides with spatula. Add juice of half a lemon if you want to. Place in clean jar and top with olive oil to cover. Keeps one month.
Combine 4 lbs. ground chevon (grass-fed goat) with a day old loaf of torn Italian bread (soaked in water in a colander and squeezed to remove most of the water), 2-3 T of the toasted spices, 3-4 T tablespoons harissa, 3/4 C bread crumbs, 2T salt, 2T black pepper, 4 eggs and a handful of fresh chopped parsley. Mix well by hand and make 40-50 meatballs smaller than a golf ball. Place on baking sheet in 425 oven for 15 minutes. You want brown seared outside and still a little pink inside. Serve with cous cous and bowl of harissa as condiment.