When I think about humble, hearty and delicious food – Italian cuisine immediately pops into my mind. People from this country knows how to make simple pasta taste spectacular. Recipes are very simple (most of the time), and with just a couple of ingredients on your shopping list, you are ready to serve a masterpiece for your family. I always try to take this approach when I cook. I want to celebrate fresh and tasty ingredients and create a small feast for my loved ones.
Discovering new flavours is not an easy task. It can be scary and even uncomfortable at times. Especially if you are like me, someone who hates throwing away food. This is why I played it safe for a long time and never bought a product if I was not sure about the taste. Step by step though, I tested my own boundaries, and slowly but steadily commenced my exploration and culinary adventures into flavours from the myriad cuisines of the world. I looked for inspiration from Indian, Middle Eastern and Thai Cuisine, I combined fragrant spices and little-known herbs, I conjured up new flavour combinations (with varying levels of success!) and poured over hundreds of well-thumbed cooking books and recipes both ancient and new. And you know what? Now, I am very excited about trying out the new ingredients!
I discovered harissa by accident. One day, a couple of years ago, I was browsing at Waitrose and noticed a jar with the vibrant red mixture inside. Because the ingredients sounded familiar, I thought I’d give a go. This is how this flavoursome paste became one of the staples in my cupboard. It elevates every single dish and gives a kick to any recipe. It is easy to incorporate in everyday cooking and works especially well with chicken or turkey meals.
Harissa is an amazing, rich North African paste that is full of flavour. It is quite a spicy ingredient because it is made from roasted red peppers, chilli peppers (baklouti pepper and serrano peppers to be precise), garlic, cumin and caraway seeds. It might feel quite daring to add this paste into your dishes because of the chillies but start with a teaspoon of it and you’ll be amazed at how quickly this won’t be enough.
If you haven’t tried harissa, this recipe is perfect! It is easy to make, and the tomatoes give a delightful sweetness and freshness to your dish.
150g cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of harissa paste
2 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
Knob of butter
Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
- Cut the peppers into big chunks, drizzle some olive oil, and season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Mix everything together and place the peppers into the oven under a grill. Cook them for 15 minutes. Flip them over after 8 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a pan and cook the garlic for 2-3 minutes. Take out the garlic (this is just for flavouring your sauce) and add the chopped tomatoes.
- Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the salted water following pack instructions.
- Add 50ml of spaghetti water into your tomatoes and simmer gently. Add the harissa paste, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
- Finish the dish by adding parsley and the lemon juice.
- Drain the spaghetti, mix with the harissa sauce and serve with the roasted peppers. To finish, simply drizzle some olive oil over the dish.