Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot

It’s easy to distinguish what the latest food trends are when you see the latest creative potato chip flavours. I realize this sounds a little crazy, but let me explain.

A recent trip to Superstore had me eyeing up the 60-cent bags of President’s Choice harissa hummus chips. This particular variety is in their “world of flavours” collection, along with Jamaican jerk chicken, Sriracha, poutine and Moroccan spice. The thing that all of these chip flavours have in common is that they’ve all recently had a moment in the foodie spotlight.

So, back to harissa – the perfect substitute for those who are suffering from a Sriracha hangover, but still want their food to be hot.

It’s a condiment made from spicy chiles, used most often in Middle Eastern and North African coking.

When blended up chiles meet garlic, oil and aromatic spices, a feisty red paste is made that will liven up lots of dishes. Frankly, I haven’t had much luck finding the condiment in stores here, although Superstore and Independent both carry a powder form of it in their Black Label collection.

To make your own version, here’s what you’ll need:

A couple of dried chiles of your choice*

1 tsp. caraway (seeds are preferable, but ground works too)

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. cumin

3 garlic cloves

2 tbsp. olive oil

Optional add-ins: lemon juice, fresh cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste

Guajillo chiles will make a moderately spicy harissa. You can also add-in chipotle or morita chiles for a smokier flavour. For a very mild harissa, use roasted red peppers instead of chiles.


  • Start by re-hydrating the chiles by covering them with boiling water and soaking for 20-30 minutes. If you’re using seeds, toast the spices in a dry skillet over low heat and then grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Remove chile stems and seeds. Add all ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth, thick paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • To store, transfer to a jar and drizzle a light layer of olive oil on top to keep it fresh. This method will keep the harissa for about a month, as long as you always keep oil on the surface. Alternatively, you can spoon the harissa into an ice cube tray and freeze for later use – just store the frozen cubes in a freezer-proof bag or container.

Here are a few of my favourite ways to use it:

  • As the chip flavour suggests, blend a teaspoon or two into your favourite hummus recipe. Taste first, and add more if you’re looking for more of a kick.
  • Swap harissa for chili powder in chili recipes.
  • A new twist on brunch – simmer chopped or canned tomatoes with onion, garlic, green peppers and a few teaspoons of harissa. Make holes in the sauce and crack a few eggs into them. Cover and cook until the eggs are set– they will be white all around, and the yolks will be slightly runny.
  • Sprinkle the powdered variety on butter-coated popcorn.

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