It’s time for a ‘look what Sainsbury’s sent me!’ post again – I don’t know about you, but I love those posts. Mostly because I have a Free Thing and I like that very much.
This month, I got to try some harissa paste. I’d heard of it before, and I knew it was used in Moroccan recipes, but beyond that I didn’t know anything else. So I was really excited to have a look, sniff and taste of it, and figure out one or more good recipes to showcase it.
Here is the wee jar I got in the post:
You can tell I opened it before I took any photos – it’s all smudgy from where I’ve been pawing at it. The contents do little to alleviate the mystery of ‘what exactly IS harissa paste?’, so I’ll try to help with that here. Well, actually, I’ll let Sainsbury’s help:
Our Speciality Ingredients harissa paste is made from a rich blend of rose petals, red peppers, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and caraway. Harissa is used widely in many North African countries, including Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia. The exact ingredients and combination of spices depend on the country, region and cook – you’ll often find red peppers, garlic, cinnamon or even breadcrumbs in harissa.
So there you go – herbs, spices, flowers, it’s a potent combo. It packs a heavy punch on the spice front, too, and the smell is super smokey and very appetising. This is a lethal two-step, though, because you want to eat a spoonful to taste that smoky loveliness and you could end up with steam coming out of your ears… If you live in a cartoon, this is especially likely.
So, it’s spicy and smoky, and red, and what are we going to do with it? Well, I threw it in some lovely soup that I tossed together from fridge odds and ends and storecupboard staples, and it without doubt elevated it beyond ‘leftovers’ status. Let us begin.
Lentil and Chorizo Soup (serves two as a starter, one if you use a big bowl)
- 1 – 2 tsp light oil
- 2 spring onions, sliced into rounds
- 1 clove garlic (smoked is good, if you have it)
- 1 tsp dried thyme – preferably dried on the branch in your kitchen
- 70g diced chorizo (this was half a pack of pre-diced chorizo from the supermarket)
- 3 cups boiling water (or stock)
- 1 tsp bouillon powder (omit if using stock)
- 1 heaped tsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp yogurt
- 1/4 tsp harissa paste, or to taste
This is such a simple meal to throw together – start by heating the oil over a medium heat, then throwing in the spring onion, garlic and thyme, and cooking for about a minute before you add the chorizo. Cook for another minute or so, until you can smell the spices and see the oil in the pot turning red. Add the lentils and stir to mix.
There are great colours in this soup.
Now, add the boiling water and bouillon, or stock, and stir again. Leave to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
I feel like I could read the future in this soup. It’s the way the chorizo oil swirls around in the water and the thyme leaves look a bit like half-obscured hieroglyphs… No? Just me? Alrighty then.
After 10 – 15 minutes of moderate simmering, the lentils will be cooked, pale and soft:
At this stage, the soup is ready. You can go ahead and dish it up, add your yogurt and harissa, throw in a few croutons, and get fed. Alternatively, you can set it to the side, off the heat, and the lentils will absorb a lot of the remaining liquid, making your soup much thicker and, luckily for me, much easier to photograph.
Dollop the yogurt and harissa on top, making sure to let some of the extra oil from the harissa pot drizzle over the soup. You can try and get fancy with your presentation – as you can see, I gave it my best shot…
Thank you, Sainsbury’s, for the delicious harissa paste – I have one or two other ideas, too, and I think it’s the kind of ingredient where the more you use it, the more you find new uses for it. So if you start to notice a theme in the coming months, don’t be surprised…