Hot Stuff - Fiery Hot Harissa Chilli

Do you love your food with a little – or a lot, of kick to it? Read on for some Hot Stuff!

If you like Hot Stuff and you’ve never tried harissa, you don’t know what you’re missing. Harissa is a fiery red hot sauce from North Africa. While the ingredients may vary from region to region, basic recipes typically include dried chiles, a few spices, garlic, olive oil and salt. Harissa, a thick paste, can be used both as an ingredient and a condiment. Use it to flavor a marinade or a stew. Dollop it onto soups or steaks, or spread it onto a sandwich for a little extra heat, or try our Piri Piri Prawns with Harissa Couscous…..

Across North Africa, this red chili pepper paste known as harissa is as ubiquitous as ketchup is here in the UK. It’s served with pretty much every meal and even with simple snacks of bread.Plus, like its cousin, the Thai hot sauce sriracha, it’s hot, complex and totally addictive. OK, comparing harissa to ketchup doesn’t quite do it justice. Harissa is a blend of hot peppers, oil and various spices. It’s a flavor base for curries and stews, as well as a condiment, in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Harissa ingredients vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, as well as by country and ethnicity, but the basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil. Then you add some amounts of coriander and caraway seeds, and maybe cumin and dried mint, depending on your preference. Libyans consider harissa more like mustard than ketchup. They eat it with fast food, pizza and in tuna and egg sandwiches. When a meal is spicy enough to make your sinus runny, the food is complimented for cleaning out the airways. And in Libya, that spicy heat comes from harissa. Hot sauce has evolved into many forms — West Indian pepper sauce, Yemeni chili relish, sriracha, and even American Tabasco, fueling a hot sauce craze. But none of it would exist without the lowly red pepper.

So how did the pepper come to figure so prominently in global cuisine?

Archaeological evidence shows chilies were eaten in Mexico thousands of years ago, there they were cultivated by the Aztecs and the Mayans, and further south in Peru, by the Incas. But it wasn’t until Christopher Columbus and crew arrived that pepper fever really took off. With the arrival of the spice-seeking Spanish and Portuguese, it was not long before chilies were shipped back to Europe and thence to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. From Spain and Portugal, peppers traveled over the water to Morocco and beyond, where various nations added spices and adapted a harissa pepper sauce to their own cuisine.

Peppers add flavor to food, they’re pretty cheap, and they stimulate the body. It’s no wonder about a quarter of the world’s population eats some daily. Check out the history of harissa on wikipedia


Piri Piri Prawns with CousCous

For the piri-piri prawns

2 red chillies, seeds removed, roughly chopped

1 dried chilli, roughly chopped

½ lemon, juice only 3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika

4 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

12 very large prawns, shells removed but tails left on, cleaned


For the couscous

200g/7oz wholegrain couscous

400ml/14fl oz boiling water

1 tsp harissa

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp baharat spice mix ½ lemon, juice only

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 pomegranate, fleshy seeds only

1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

1 lemon, quartered, to serve

Preparation method

For the piri-piri prawns

Place all the ingredients except the prawns into a food processor and blend until smooth. Place the prawns on a plate and rub over the piri-piri sauce, reserving a little to garnish. Leave to marinate in the fridge for an hour. Heat a griddle pan until hot and cook the prawns for 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on their size, until the prawns have turned pink and are cooked through.

For the couscous

Place the couscous into a bowl, pour over the boiling water and stir with a fork to combine. Add the harissa, pomegranate molasses, baharat and lemon juice and stir once more. Cover with cling film and set aside for 3-4 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed into the couscous. Remove the cling film and fluff up with a fork. Add the red onion, fleshy pomegranate seeds and coriander and mix well.

To serve

Place three prawns onto each plate with a pile of couscous. Drizzle over the reserved piri-piri sauce and a squeeze of lemon.0.95pp