NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Harissa (هريسة) is a North African chili sauce, commonly used as a condiment and curry base in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Its complex and slightly spicy taste is often compared to a similar Asian sauce, the equally-delicious almighty Sriracha. There is a lot of variation in the sauce, but the recipe I developed is one that pairs well with many curry sauces, including my Lamb Tagine recipe.
While there is mention of Harissa as early as the 13th century, it probably didn’t take the form we recognize today until later, since chili peppers arrived in Europe and Africa following Columbus’ discovery of the New World.