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Harissa is one of the condiments most well known from North Africa. However, it’s not as commonly found as people think.
I can remember having a conversation with a few of the guys that worked at my riad in Tunis, Tunisia about harissa and the perception of spicy food in North Africa. Harissa has always been a sort of “added” pop of heat for dishes. However, they told me that lately younger generations want things that are spicier and spicier.
So, instead of it being used to add a kick to dishes, it’s now becoming more and more a part of everyday dishes. I can say I have also seen the same thing in Morocco.
Harissa is likely to be the spiciest condiment added to any food in Morocco.
What’s the difference between Moroccan harissa and Tunisian harissa?
Not a lot.
The basic steps to make harissa are; a blending of chili peppers with garlic, olive oil and spices to a thick paste. The spices are where things differ. Tunisian harissa often uses caraway seed in addition to the base ingredients. While Moroccan and Algerian harissa use cumin.
Where is the best place to buy harissa paste?
You can find harissa in most Middle Eastern/Mediterranean markets. If you don’t have one of these options close than I suggest Mina Harissa. You can purchase it online and they truly do great products that are the real thing.
It’s also worth noting that all harissa is not the same. The harissa you find in Morocco will be different than what it is in Tunisia for example. Sometimes it will come in a tube and be a thick harissa paste while other times it will come in a jar and be more like a harissa sauce.
For this recipe I wanted to make a glaze that reminded me of the cocktail meatballs seen on Midwestern potluck tables growing up. If you’re not familiar with this then check out the original recipe idea in this post.
These meatballs have a kick but you can use either a mild or spicy version of harissa paste to get the flavor and feel you’re looking for.
- 1/2 lb ground lamb or beef
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion or ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp harissa paste (optional)
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp each salt and pepper
- 6 tsp harissa paste
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- To make the meatballs combine all of the spices with the meat and mix well.
- The harissa paste is optional, if you want an added spicy bite than include it. If not, it can be left out.
- Roll the meatballs into large, marble size pieces and place on a baking tray.
- Bake in the oven at 350F for 20 minutes until they are cooked through. You can also cook on the stove top in a pan with a little bit of oil but I find baking makes them a bit less greasy.
- To make the sauce:
- In a saute pan, mix together the olive oil, harissa paste, apple cider vinegar and honey. Heat on medium heat until the liquid starts to bubble.
- In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with 2 Tbsp warm water to create a slurry.
- Whisk this into the harissa sauce and cook 2-3 minutes to create a thicker sauce.
- You can either mix the sauce with the meatballs, dip the meatballs individually or place the sauce out as a side for people to dip into themselves.
Once you've made the meatballs and glaze you can keep warm on the warm setting in a crock pot.
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Not enough harissa for you? I've got more harissa recipes too!