These are a blast for any chilliholic and will add a new dimension to the seasonings on any table. In the northern hemisphere, now is when we need to preserve green & red chillies. If you have a blender or food processor these couldn’t be easier.
Chillies and tomatoes are arguably two of the most influential culinary exports from South America where they originated. Traders took them to Europe, the middle & far east from the 16th century onwards. Their use is characteristic of many cuisines. Harissa & schug are similar to some of the original salsas & pebre of South America.
They can be used virtually anywhere in your culinary repertoire. In soups or stews; as a rub on meat, fish & vegetables; spread on bread; as a dip, with hummus or felafel etc; or like a ketchup. On the left, the delicious snack my friend Tamsin made with the Schug I took as a present when we stayed with her & her family. Tamsin’s blog is a cracking read too.
Harissa is a Tunisian/Morrocan red chilli paste seasoned with spices. Some variations include tomatoes too, which round out the flavour.
Schug (zhug or skhug) is a Yemeni green chilli paste make with lashings of fresh coriander and seasoned with spices. There is also a red variant.
If you’d like to make these wonderful ingredients, please read on…
Caution: I wore disposable vinyl gloves to prepare the chillies. Chilli oil on sensitive parts of your body hurts. A lot. Chilli oil is not water soluble, it’s fat soluble. If you get chilli on your hands, ‘wash’ your hands in some vegetable oil and then wash them with soap & water.
Spices: You’ll get better flavour from freshly ground spices. For this recipe, I do not dry fry/heat the spices first as this changes their fresh flavour. Grind the spices in a mortar & pestle or use a spice grinder. I used an old pepper mill to grind the spices for these recipes.
Feel free to vary this recipe using your favourite spices. I’ve seen recipes with caraway, mint and/or lemon juice included. Often, the recipes say to make this with re-hydrated, dried red chillies. As I had fresh, I used those. Use the recipe as a starting point and have a play. Obviously, the type of chillies you use will affect the taste and heat. I used chillies that would not keep well enough to dry as they were damaged or ‘on the turn’.
This quantity made enough to fill three 195ml jars with enough room at the top to cover with oil. I suggest making in small jars so you can open as you need them.
75g red chillies, destalked (deseeded if you wish to moderate the heat), roughly chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
75g onion roughly chopped
1tsp cumin seeds, ground
1tsp coriander seeds, ground
1tsp fine sea salt
500g very ripe, fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded or 1 x 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
75g red wine vinegar
Blitz all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until you get a texture you like. Have a (careful) taste and adjust seasoning if you need to.
Pop into a saucepan and bring to a fast simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently until thick. I looked for the free liquid that will rest on the top if you don’t stir to almost disappear. You’ll see when you do it.
Allow to cool a bit and pack in to warm sterilised jars. Leave enough head room so you can then cover the surface with 5mm or so of vegetable or olive oil. If you keep it covered with oil each time you use it & pop it in the fridge, it’ll easily last 12 months. Keep the unopened jars in a cool dry place.
As with the recipe above, feel free to vary this recipe using your favourite spices.
This quantity made enough to fill two 454ml and two 195ml jars (for presents) with enough room at the top to cover with oil.
I’ve added some lime juice to my recipe. This is for three reasons. First, I think the lime goes well with the other ingredients – they’re common companions. Second, I hope that the addition of some acid will help preserve the schug. Third, the liquid helps to get the processing of the ingredients going. If you don’t like it, don’t use it – you could also substitute lemon juice, white wine or cider vinegar.
600g fresh green chillies, destalked, roughly chopped
150g fresh coriander, stems and leaves, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled
Juice of 2-3 limes
1tbsp cumin seeds, ground
1tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1tsp peppercorns, ground
1tsp green cardamom pods, seeds extracted and ground
1tsp fine sea salt
Put the chillies, fresh coriander, garlic & lime juice into a blender or food processor. Whiz up until you have a fine paste.
Pack in to warm sterilised jars. Leave enough head room so you can then cover the surface with 5mm or so of vegetable or olive oil. If you keep it covered with oil each time you use it & pop it in the fridge, it’ll easily last 12 months. Keep the unopened jars in a cool dry place.
That’s it. They’re both dead simple and taste stunning. Give them a try and let me know how it goes…