Harissa, basically a chilli paste with ground spices, is an essential condiment in my father's birthplace of Tunisia and across north Africa. It transforms fish, chicken and meat and is a simple way of adding heat and depth of flavour; it's also great simply smeared on toasted sourdough or in sandwiches.
This recipe makes a fresher style of harissa, rather than the fiery commercial pastes you often find. You can use it more liberally and the softer, warmer tones won't overpower more delicate flavours.
1 bulb garlic
1 large red capsicum
5 large red chillies
55ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp caraway seeds
100ml tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 tsp salt flakes
2 tsp castor sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced or 180C conventional.
2. Place the whole garlic bulb, capsicum and chillies in a baking dish and coat with oil. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the chillies and place in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and let stand for 10 minutes. Continue roasting the garlic and capsicum for a further 10 minutes.
3. Place the capsicum in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and stand for 10 minutes. Peel chillies and capsicum, scraping out seeds.
4. Toast the cumin and caraway seeds in a frying pan over high heat for one minute while shaking the pan. Grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle.
5. Cut the top off the garlic bulb and squeeze the pulp into a food processor with the capsicum, chillies, cumin, caraway, tomato passata, tomato paste, salt, sugar and 55 millilitres of olive oil and process until smooth.
Store, covered, in the fridge for up to five days.
Makes 1½ to 2 cups
Be a bit picky with your chickpeas for this. New-season dried chickpeas will require less soaking and cooking, and will have much better flavour; that packet at the back of the cupboard might never soften.
350g dried chickpeas
2 tsp baking soda
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
2 lemons, juiced, salt flakes
4 green cardamom pods
4 allspice berries
2 tsp cumin seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
About 150 ml iced water
1 bunch chicory or parsley
1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in lots of water, then drain and place in a large saucepan with the baking soda and plenty of cold water and bring to a simmer. Skim and cook for about 40 minutes or until the chickpeas are cooked - cooking time will vary, depending on the age of the chickpeas.
2. Remove one-third of the cooked chickpeas and drain. Simmer the rest until they're really tender, then drain.
3. Add the well-cooked chickpeas to a food processor and process to a stiff paste. Add the tahini, garlic and lemon juice and blitz for a minute or two. Taste and season.
4. While processing, drizzle in some iced water (you won't need the full 150 ml) until the hummus is light and fluffy, but not too loose.
5. Grind the spices together in a mortar and pestle with some salt. Remove the cardamom husks. Roll the whole chickpeas in the spice mix until well coated.
6. Fry the spiced chickpeas in olive oil over medium heat until fragrant and slightly golden.
7. Smear the hummus on a plate, scatter over the spiced chickpeas and top with chopped chicory or parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with harissa and toasted flatbread.
Drink Oaked chardonnay
Brik pastry with tuna, egg, spring onion, mint capers
When I was a child this was a special snack that my Meme used to make on a Sunday morning, basically a fancy Tunisian jaffle. Brik pastry is so fine and crisp, yet sturdy, and this is one of the best, and easiest, ways to enjoy it.
250ml olive or vegetable oil
4 brik pastry circles (feuilles de brick), 25cm-30cm wide (from delis or specialty food stores)
6 sprigs mint, picked and finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tsp small capers
200g quality tuna in oil
4 large eggs
Freshly ground pepper
1. Heat the oil to medium hot in a large deep frying pan over medium heat - don't overheat the oil, as the parcels will burn quickly without cooking properly.
2. Using a small, shallow bowl as a mould, lay a pastry round over the top, pushing it in gently to form a depression.
3. Fill the depression with a quarter of the mint, spring onion, capers and tuna, then make a little dip in the filling and crack an egg into it. Season well with salt and pepper. Fold two opposing sides in and then fold both ends over so you have a square parcel with the folds overlapping.
4. Quickly tip the parcel out and place in the hot oil with the folded side down - it will seal quite quickly. Fry for about two minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve with harissa on the side.
Tip When working with brik pastry, take one sheet out of the packet at a time and work fast, as the pastry dries out quickly and becomes brittle.
Drink Pinot grigio