Raw harissa

My easy version of harissa starts with fresh red chilli peppers, ready for you to use in the oven or grill.


One way to make harissa is to roast an exotic collection of chilli peppers and toast whole spices before you grind them. This is not that way.

The reason I call this my raw harissa – no great culinary revelation here – is that no cooking is involved. You put all the ingredients in the blender and you're done. The reason it exists, however, is to be cooked: painted onto chicken thighs or lamb cutlets before they're grilled or tossed through vegetables before they're roasted.

All this is to distinguish it from traditional harissa, which I make and use either as a condiment or in gently cooked dishes like soup. For me, using already-cooked harissa in the heat of the grill or oven overwhelms it, frizzling it away too much and destroying the delicacy of the spices. Starting with all raw ingredients, at least you're giving the flavours a fighting chance.

There are dozens of varieties of chilli peppers. In Australia, the most common mild(ish) chilli is the prosaically but accurately named "long red chilli", which is the cayenne pepper (capsicum frutescens); red serrano chillis are a close match. If you know your local chillis, use the ones you like, controlling the heat by selectively deseeding. For instance, for my own harissa I use about 5 long red chillis and will deseed 2 or 3 of them. You can make a spicy but heat-free version of harissa by using red capsicums (bell peppers) instead.

Raw harissa


Makes about 1 cup.

100g (4 oz) fresh red chilli peppers (see note above)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground caraway
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Trim the chillis and cut them in half, lengthways, deseeding as required. Cut the garlic cloves into a few chunks.

Put all the ingredients in a blender or small processor and blend until pureed. Store in an airtight container until required. Will keep for a week in the fridge.

For a completely, addictively delicious way to use this harissa, try my harissa-roasted butternut recipe.