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Rich, spicy and fruity, harissa is a do-it-all seasoning. From lamb, pepper and date kebabs to roasted carrots with yoghurt and hazelnuts, here are three recipes that put the Tunisian chilli paste to good use.
Made from fiery red chillies, garlic, salt, herbs and spices, harissa is ubiquitous across north Africa – particularly Tunisia, which claims it as its national condiment. Believed to have its roots in the 16th century, the punchy chilli paste subsequently spread across Morocco, Algeria and Libya, before finding its way into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
Thanks to its rich, fruity heat and smooth, luxurious texture, harissa works beautifully as a dipping sauce or marinade, and can also be used to flavour everything from couscous to tagine to soup. Traditional Tunisian harissa, such as the iconic yellow-tubed version by Le Phare Du Cap Bon (£1.79, Sous Chef), is usually flavoured with coriander and caraway seeds, but even ‘classic’ recipes vary from region to region: other commonly used herbs and spices include smoked paprika, cumin and mint.
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Beyond the classic scarlet harissa paste, there are plenty of other varieties out there. Sabrina Ghayour, Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigella Lawson swear by the rose harissa by Belazu, which also does an amber-coloured apricot version (£4.35 each, Waitrose). You can also find a version of harissa made with green chillies, which originated in Yemen and is also called zhoug or schug: try Al’fez Zhoug Green Harissa (£1.99, Natural Grocery).
Below, chefs and food writers share three ways to cook with harissa. Sophie Hansen’s roasted carrots with yoghurt, hazelnuts and harissa is a simple but gorgeously colourful vegetarian side dish. We’d serve it with a Palestinian-style aubergine, chickpea and tomato bake or cauliflower couscous with pomegranate – but you could also convert it into a main course with the help of some warm bread.
Genevieve Taylor’s kebabs are ideal for making the most of barbecue season: lamb neck fillets and red peppers are coated in harissa, threaded onto skewers along with soft dates and grilled over hot coals. The sticky sweetness of the dates offsets the heat of the harissa marinade, while a sparkling top note is provided by a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkling of mint leaves.
Finally, Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller’s recipe for honey-harissa grilled shrimp also balances rich spiciness with fresh, tart and sweet flavours. Marinated seafood is served with roasted vegetables, charred grapefruit and wild rice that’s been tossed with citrus zest and fresh dill – it’s a show-stopping main course that’s perfect for dinner parties. Happy eating.
Roasted carrots with yoghurt, hazelnuts and harissa
Sophie Hansen says: “This is an insanely tasty dish that’s a great side but also brilliant on its own with some warm Turkish bread or tossed greens. Big flavours, easy to put together and using some nice solid seasonal veg to great appeal… yes, please!”
- olive oil, for drizzling
- 390g Greek-style yoghurt
- 1 handful rocket
- 75g hazelnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
- 1 small handful dried rose petals (optional)
For the harissa dressing:
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp harissa, or to taste
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Peel and slice the carrots into batons. Arrange on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Roast the carrots for 45 minutes or until cooked through and beginning to caramelise at the edges.
For the harissa dressing, whisk together the olive oil, harissa, lemon zest and juice and season to taste. (Perhaps start with just 1 tablespoon of harissa and add more to taste – some brands are hotter than others.)
To serve, spread the base of a big platter or bowl with the yoghurt, top with the carrots and rocket and then drizzle the dressing over the top.
Finish with the hazelnuts and rose petals, if using.
From In Good Company: Simple, Generous Recipes And Ideas For Get-Togethers And Good Times by Sophie Hansen (£20, Murdoch Books), out now
Harissa lamb, pepper and date kebabs
Genevieve Taylor says: “The dates are a little unusual here but they add a lovely hit of sweet stickiness. Make sure you get nice soft dates, which will grill best.”
- 500g lamb neck fillet, cut into 1cm pieces
- 2 red peppers, cut into 2cm pieces
- 2 tbsp harissa
- 200g soft dates, cut in half, stones removed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, halved
- a handful of chopped mint, to garnish
You will also need:
- 6 metal skewers
Put the lamb and pepper pieces in a bowl, add the harissa and a grind of salt and pepper and mix together. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1–2 hours, longer if you have time.
When you are ready to cook, fire up the barbecue ready for direct cooking.
Thread the lamb, peppers and dates alternately onto the skewers and drizzle over the olive oil.
Lay the skewers on the grill bars directly over the fire and cook for 2–3 minutes on each side until the lamb is cooked and the peppers lightly charred.
Squeeze over the lemon juice and sprinkle on the mint just before serving.
From Foolproof BBQ: 60 Simple Recipes To Make The Most Of Your Barbecue by Genevieve Taylor (£12.99, Quadrille), out now
Honey-harissa grilled shrimp with roasted vegetables, charred grapefruit and wild rice
Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller say: “We both agree that this is our most visually stunning dish. Of course, good looks only take you only so far, so we made sure that it has the flavour to back up its alluring appearance. Earthy, savoury, spicy, sweet and bitter elements come together in perfect harmony. It also happens to be a nutritional powerhouse. Beauty and substance – what’s not to love?”
For the citrus-herb wild rice:
- 160g wild rice
- 540ml vegetable stock
- 1 scant tsp black pepper
- 10g finely chopped fresh dill
- 1 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp grapefruit zest
- flaky sea salt (optional)
For the roasted vegetables:
- 1 red cabbage (about 1.2 kg)
- 3 beetroots (about 500g)
- 1 large fennel bulb (about 500g, including stalks and fronds)
- 120ml olive oil
- 60ml balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard
- ½ tsp flaky sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp honey
For the charred grapefruit:
- ¾ large ruby red grapefruit
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
For the grilled shrimp:
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 500g large white shrimp, shells on
- 20g loosely packed dill fronds for garnish
Preheat the oven to 205°C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Make the citrus-herb wild rice: rinse the rice in a fine-mesh strainer until the water runs clear, then drain well.
In a medium heavy pot, combine the rice, stock and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat.
Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cover the pot with a tightfitting lid. Set your timer for 45 minutes and don’t give in to the temptation to stir or lift the lid.
Cook until the grains are tender and the water is absorbed, 45 to 55 minutes. If there is excess water at 45 minutes, leave the lid off for the remaining cooking time.
Turn off the heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff the wild rice with a fork and fold in the fresh dill, grapefruit juice, oil and grapefruit zest. (Use one-quarter grapefruit for the wild rice and reserve the remaining three-quarter grapefruit to make the charred grapefruit.) Season with salt, if desired.
While the rice is cooking, make the roasted vegetables. Cut the cabbage into quarters. Cut out the white core, then slice into 5cm-thick wedges.
Peel the beetroots and cut into 12mm-thick wedges.
Trim the stalks off of the fennel and set aside (you will use the fronds for garnish). Trim the bottom of the fennel and remove any battered or woody outer leaves. Cut the fennel into 12mm-thick wedges.
Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheets. Cover one sheet with cabbage, and the other sheet with half fennel and half beetroots. Leave a little space between each piece so air can circulate.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the mixture over the vegetables and turn the vegetables once or twice to make sure they are well coated.
Roast the vegetables in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove the baking sheet with the beetroots.
Drizzle the honey over the beetroots and toss to coat. Remove any well-done fennel to a plate and set aside.
Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until all of the vegetables are charred and tender, 5 to 15 minutes more.
Make the charred grapefruit: preheat the grill. Cut the remaining grapefruit into 2.5cm-thick wedges. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the coconut sugar.
Grill for about 3 minutes, until the rind just begins to char.
Make the shrimp: heat a grill pan over medium high heat. In a large bowl, whisk the harissa, honey and oil. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
Grill the shrimp until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes per side.
To serve, spread the wild rice on a serving platter and lay the roasted vegetables on top. Scatter half of the dill fronds over the vegetables.
Arrange the grapefruit slices and shrimp on top of the vegetables and garnish with the remaining dill fronds and a few fennel fronds.
Adapted from Pescan: A Feel Good Cookbook by Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller (£21.99, Abrams), out now
Photography: © Ren Fuller; Sophie Hansen; © Jason Ingram