In response to the executive order on immigration issued at the end of January, I’ve seen some food sites offer lists of cookbooks that celebrate the foods of the seven countries listed in the ban, with one of Food52’s selections being the book Moro: The Cookbook. I’ve been wanting to write about this book for some time, and well, now feels like an apt time to do so. It’s the cookbook companion to the restaurant of the same name in London, and the chefs Sam and Sam Clark draw inspiration from both Spain and several Northern African countries that run along the Mediterranean. There are lots of great recipes for both tapas and mezze contained therein, but to be frank, the recipe that makes this book a worthwhile addition to your cookbook shelf alone is the one for homemade harissa.
I’ve had harissa before, of course, but it always came from a jar and never wowed me in the way I was hoping it would. Having made it from scratch, I can appreciate how much of a difference fresh versus jarred makes in this case, and frankly I’m all on board with spending twenty minutes seeding hot peppers for something that tastes this good. Harissa is one of those condiments that can make anything better, be it chicken, beef, fish, or vegetables. I’m tempted to make a compound butter with the stuff and smear that on some toast with some pancetta, to be completely honest with you.
When I made this batch, my intent was to dispatch most of it into a bowl of chicken thighs to evenly coat them and roast them in the oven, and when I sat down to eat these I basically lost my mind and reverted to what Michael refers to as my food sex noises while I ate them. There was heat, but it didn’t overwhelm the palate and the chicken was super-juicy and flavorful. The next time we roast a chicken I’m going to make homemade harissa and frankly, I may never buy another jar of it at the store again.
Slightly adapted from Moro: The Cookbook
9 oz fresh red chiles (I used red hot chili peppers)
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 heaped teaspoons coarsely ground caraway seeds
3 heaped teaspoons coarsely ground cumin seeds
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato purée or tomato paste blended with a little water
1 1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
2 level teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika/pimentón de la vera
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Seed the red chili peppers (split them in half and scoop out the seeds), roughly chop them, and then add them to a blender or food processor. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, and half of each of the spices to the carafe; process until smooth. Add the roasted red pepper and process again, making the paste as smooth as possible.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients–the tomato puree, red-wine vinegar, paprika, the rest of the spices, and the olive oil. Season with additional salt to taste; can store in the fridge with a little extra olive oil to cover it and seal it from the air. Use on fish, chicken, or on top of roasted vegetables.