Posted by: Rachel | March 15, 2010

and liddle lamzy divey…

OK, maybe they don’t actually eat *ivy*, but grass-fed lamb does seem sweeter and less fatty than that raised by other farming methods. Yesterday was “lamb class”, and I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will tell you that I have fallen in love with harissa. Harissa? Oh yummm… it is sort of a Moroccan pesto, if you will, and since yesterday, I certainly will!

I’ve read about harissa and seen it in jars at the grocery, but it always frightened me. See, I am a wuss when it comes to “heat” in my food. Garlic, onions, sure, smoked paprika, you bet, but hot peppers* frighten me and all the harissa I’ve always seen has that tell-tale “red oil” look to it, so I gave it a wide berth. Now that I know how to make it (and gosh, its easy!) I already made up a batch this morning and am keeping it in a glass jar in the fridge, where I am told it will last “practically forever”. I don’t think it will have a chance, though…


6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 t cayenne
2 T smoked paprika
2 T cumin
2 T coriander

olive oil

Put all dry ingredients in a blender (you may not want to use it for fruit smoothies for a while…) and pulse to chop the garlic a bit. Add olive oil (maybe 1/4C to start) slowly, while machine is running, and pulse until smooth.

Test for heat/taste, correct as needed and store in a covered glass jar in the fridge.


Pretty easy! There are a ton of slightly varied recipes for this online. It seems to be one of those “my grandma makes better harissa than *your* grandma” things, with every household making slight variations. If this is a part of your culture or pantry, please share *your* recipe with us!

I think it will make an amazing addition to soups, a change from curries, and a different sort of “salad dressing” for maybe a carrot slaw. Oh, and on eggs… mmm. I’ll let you know!

Anyway, lamb class. We prepared shanks which were smelling truly wonderful when we left, happy in a pot with carrots, garlic, tomatoes, grated lemon peel, rosemary and thyme and swimming in port, and we made merguez, which is a lamb sausage that I’d always avoided because it contains, you know, harissa… oh I’m glad I found out that it isn’t too hot for me!

Basically the merguez recipe is: for 5 pounds of ground lamb, 1 good handful each of finely chopped fresh oregano and mint, about 3/4 C of harissa, salt, and pepper. Mix *very* thoroughly. Cook a tiny bit to check for salt/spices, and correct if necessary. Stuff into a casing (or, in a pinch, just make meatballs or patties). This sausage cooks quickly in a pan with a little water, broiled, or grilled.

merguez (lamb sausage) links

merguez links

It was tricky getting it into the casing, but my second attempt (the first one had that “clay ashtray” look to it) worked out pretty well. I had one link for dinner last night and two links for lunch today. I could feel a slight warmness on the back of my tongue an hour later, but it isn’t painfully hot at all!

Please send along any other uses you know for harissa! (Skip the ones about taking rust off of things – – it just isn’t hot enough to do it well!

*I do love ancho fudge pie, but I’m told regularly that ancho peppers are not hot…


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