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Harissa chicken with Juvenal's Perseides

I would like explicitly to invite you to post comments in response to this or any other post on this blog. You must have opinions which are more relevant than mine about some of the things I come up with and I would really like to read them.

Anyway, a vaguely Middle Eastern barbecued chicken meal was planned for a few days ago so we thought we should make a couscous to go with it. The kettle boiled and hot water stirred into the couscous before we realised we had no harissa in the house and, frankly, I wouldn't go into our local town for a tin of harissa at the best of times so that wasn't going to happen. An alternative had to be thought up and fast.

The good side of the internet is the sharing of recipes and tips on cooking, DIY, fixing lawnmowers and all sorts. OK, so not all the tips are good but you quickly recognise which sites are not going to offer anything credible. We combined a couple of recipes to come up with the following harissa which was fresher and tastier than any I have had in any restaurant and livened up the couscous fantastically. I also had a large dollop on the side.

Wine? With slightly spicy foods, I find the sweetness and richness (not to say fullness) of Grenache works so we had Chateau Juvenal's 2016 'Perseides' which was everything you would expect from this vintage. Rich but never heavy because Sebastien knows how to get the extraction just right. It's one of those wines that puts a smile on your face for all the right reasons. Not the cheapest, admittedly, but anyone who objects to paying £24 for this should think about the smart Burgundies in their collection or even a modest Chateauneuf, one that's worth drinking, anyway, and if you don't have a cellar or well stocked wine rack, consider how much you would pay in your favourite restaurant and what you would get for even twice the price when it's open again (which I hope it will be and soon).

It's like freshly squeezed orange juice: once you've had this, you're spoilt. You can never go back to the simpler stuff and I will never buy harissa again. This is so simple as well as being absolutely delicious.

The plan is, next time, to marinade the chicken in the harissa (slightly diluted with a little olive oil) for a few hours and barbecue it as before. It will be fantastic with couscous or wraps and salad (with some extra harissa, of course). The recipe makes enough for a few meals so whatever you don't use should be put into a sterilised jar and covered with a little olive oil to protect it.

Soak 20 dried chillies in boiling water for 30 minutes then hull and de-seed.
Toast 1 tsp each caraway seeds and coriander seeds with 2 tsp cumin seeds then grind.
Blitz with:

4 garlic cloves
1 tbs white wine vinegar
2 tbs lemon juice
80ml olive oil
1 tbs tomato puree
1 tsp salt
2 tsp smoked paprika


  1. James, interesting to read the Harissa recipe. We have been ok for main food items, but the spices and so on have been a problem. We use 'rooted spices' ( which are uk based and fast delivery. With the lockdown and veg boxes a wider range of dishes is now in my repertoire! best regards Paul


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