July's Optional Monthly Community Recipe was Harrisa, the fiery chilli sauce that defines North African cooking. In Tunisia, harissa takes the place of other seasonings, such as salt and pepper. Used to season everything from grilled meats, fish, and roasted vegetables, to soups and stews, harissa is spicy and complex in flavour, but can be adjusted anywhere along the heat spectrum to suit your personal tastes.
Just as every Middle Eastern housewife will have her own recipe for harissa, so our participants had a multitude of variations and uses for their harissa. Let's see what they came up with.
My co-host, Kim at Stirring the Pot, made Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini & Sumac. Kim says, "This is a very satisfying and eye-pleasing meal that can be served family-style for breakfast, lunch, or dinner." She goes on to say "The harissa adds a really flavorful dose of heat to this recipe that is distinctive and so delicious. After tasting the harissa in this recipe I have grown to absolutely love it. My jar of harissa is front and center in my refrigerator. I've added the harissa to my standard meatloaf. I've added it to eggs. I added it to my spaghetti sauce. Just this morning I added it to my breakfast burritos. It's my new favorite condiment! If you enjoy a very flavorful way to heat up your food then I encourage you to make a batch!" I could not agree more.
Renia from The Development of Taste made her own hybrid version of harissa adapted from a couple of different recipes, and used it in Ottolenghi's Garlic Soup with Harissa. She says "it was sunny and delightful - just enough to start a meal the right way", and suggests that a more substantial meal could be made of this soup with the addition of some vegetables or garbanzo beans. Mmmm, yes please!
My other co-host, Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, was on the same page and made Garlic Soup with Chickpeas and Harissa to give herself an immune-system boost after a bad cold and dose of laryngitis. Deb says, "This is a good one! The soup itself is full of flavor--sweet, herby and garlicky and tasty on its own. Stir in the tangy yogurt and add the heat of the harissa paste and it becomes even better. The yogurt is optional--but adds extra flavor and texture." She also suggests that the addition of chickpeas, or other beans, are a must to make this a particularly satisfying dish.
Zosia at Are You Cooking? used her harissa in Shakshuka - the wonderful dish of eggs poached in a vibrant, spicy sauce of tomatoes, peppers, harissa and other spices. Zosia says of her harissa, "It's garlicky and spicy and very versatile; I've used it as a marinade for chicken and shrimp, spiced up some pasta sauce with it and used it in place of ketchup on burgers. Delicious!" She goes on to say that her Shakshuka "was spicy, tomatoe-y and a little sweet with richness provided by the egg yolks. It was a quick and delicious any-time-of-day meal that will be repeated often." A sentiment shared by all of us who made this dish when it was our Optional Monthly Community Recipe back in April.
Joyce at Kitchen Flavours made Scrambled Eggs with Potatoes, Preserved Lemons and Harissa. Although Joyce was a little disappointed with her dish as she wasn't able to get the spicy Merguez sausages called for in the original recipe, she found "There's a hint of spiciness from the Harissa paste, and a mild spice fragrance from the caraway seeds. The preserved lemons adds a nice interesting bite." Although I'm not normally a scrambled egg lover, the thought of all these flavours spicing up those eggs really excites me.
Just like last month, Kim and I were once again on the same page. Over at Couscous & Consciousness, I too made the Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini & Sumac, using both a red and a green harissa in my dish. This dish was an absolute explosion of wonderful flavours and textures - soft, sweet lamb; crunchy nuts; sweet/salty hits of preserved lemon; a bit of heat from the harissa; sweet, juicy tomatoes; tangy, tahini-spiked yoghurt; and oozy, gooey eggs. I think this is my favourite Ottolenghi dish so far.
August's Optional Monthly Community Recipe is Labneh
Photo courtesy of Zosia at Are You Cooking?
Labneh is a strained yoghurt cheese, made by simply doing just that - straining yoghurt through a muslin cloth, fine strainer, or even paper filter - to remove the whey. The resulting "cheese" is often served in the Middle East as part of a selection of mezze. The strained cheese can be used as a spread on toast or in sandwiches, or rolled into balls and rolled in a variety of herbs, and crumbled into salads.
If you would like to participate in this month's Optional Monthly Community Recipe then go ahead and make Ottolenghi's version of labneh (there is a recipe in his book, Jersualem). If you don't have the book, then feel free to leave a comment below (including your email address) and we will send you the recipe/instructions.
Make and post your labneh, with the added challenge of using it in a recipe, on or by August 31st. Labneh would fit nicely into this week's theme, which is Mezze Madness, but you can also post your labneh in place of any weekly theme during the month.
Please note, there will be no linky with this post - simply link to any current weekly theme post during the month.