Few years back when I use to read about standards required in Michelin stars restaurants I was bit shocked. But then after few years I totally understand why all of those standards are so high. I use to think that chopping vegetables into equal pieces or spending time on making your own pastry is a bit of a waste of time and called it quite obsessive.
Professional Michelin inspectors anonymously visit restaurants evaluate them on a range of criteria. If they are impressed by a restaurant, they visit the establishment again. And again. Quite an obsessive research, isn’t it? This actually makes the Michelin stars restaurants such a reliable place to eat. No matter what the occasion, time of the year you will always find the best food in those places. Also, I believe that you will remember this meal for long…
It is not only the prestige of the place that comes with Michelin stars but also a big money – the restaurants can be fully booked months in advance.
Now after few years of cooking at home, learning new skills, tasting menus from different chefs I know exactly that those small things make a huge difference. These things are taking dishes to the new exciting level.
I know that sometimes it is difficult to find time to make your own puff pastry, pesto or real stock and we use some bought, ready – made. It is OK, but it certainly brings the taste down. No matter how expensive the stuff from the shops is, the homemade one is always better.
Call me snob, or obsessed but I prefer to make my own pesto, pastry or stock. This is what makes my guests think “WOW” when they try my dishes. Perhaps this is something that you cannot name, you are not sure what it is, but you can tell that it makes big difference to the taste. It is important for me, because I eat not only to satisfy a hunger…
Taking all the above into a consideration I stopped buying ready made harissa and made my own, that was much better than any from a jar that I tried before. This hot chilli sauce is commonly eaten in North Africa and Middle East. It is great with any meat dish, if you like hot dishes, excellent with veg too – especially with lentils or beans dishes.
From “Good Food”, September 2010 issue
Makes about 5 tablespoons
10 fresh red finger length chillies
1 ½tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp caraway seeds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
½ sea salt, preferably flaked
2 tsp tomato puree
2½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil (mild, not extra virgin, as it will overpower the taste of other ingredients)
7 drops rose water (optional, but highly recommended!)
Place frying pan over a medium heat and char the chillies turning them now and then until fairly blackened and covered in “blisters”. Remove from a pan, place in a plastic bad, seal it and leave it to cool down slightly, for about 10 minutes.
In the same frying pan over a low heat gently toast the cumin, caraway and coriander seeds, for about 2 minutes, tossing them, until fragrant. Place in a mortar and smash with pestle.
Peel away the skins from chillies and deseed them. I recommend you use a latex gloves or wash your hands with oil and then with water and soap to avoid any nasty consequences (especially man – do not be tempted to do this job and go to the toilet without washing your hands carefully). Capsaicin from chillies is hydrophobic, so you cannot wash it away using water, but you can do so using alcohol or oils. This is why you should rub some oil into your hands before washing them with water and soap.
With a pestle and mortar pound the chillies, spices, garlic and salt together until as fine as possible. Stir in tomato puree, lemon juice and rose water and allow flavours to combine for at least one hour before using.
Unfortunately the magazine did not tell us how long we can keep this refrigerated. I am keeping mine for 2 weeks now and everything looks and tastes OK. I would think it will last long if covered with layer of oil. I would try to freeze it in ice container, to make small cubes – each for single use.
If harissa is to hot for you make it milder by adding more olive.