Harissa has been our go-to chilli paste for a little over two years now. It’s so versatile that I never tire of listening to how people have used mum and my harissa recipe in their home kitchens. Just the other day we had someone ping us to let us know how much her family loved a veggie stir-fry she made with the harissa, and the reason it didn’t require much else is because the paste itself uses pickled lemons in it, so you have both spice and acidity present. Combine that with some onions and ground meat, and I promise you a superb meat gravy that is incredible when poured over some pappardelle. If you’re looking for the harissa recipe, you can find it here (or just buy a bottle off us via Chutney Mary, mum’s brand by calling her on +919820133023. At present we only deliver to Bandra, Khar and Santacruz).
When you’re not smearing it over a roast chicken or stirring it through hummus for a fiery kick, Harissa is the secret ingredient in our house-favourite spicy kheema when we don’t make it Indian style. We use mutton kheema and quite typically, like other Sindhi households, add coriander and cumin powder to this slow-cooked meat gravy and really work the meat by bhuno-ing it well (to bhuno is to toss the meat constantly in the sauce to work it all together) before we let it slow-cook. I’ve taken this dish one step further by topping it with garlicky tomatoes and crispy green chickpeas. You could use regular chickpeas here when green chickpeas are out of season, or just leave it out altogether. It’s great over pasta, but also works with rice or rotis too if that’s all you have.
Harissa Ragu With Garlicky Tomatoes and Crispy Green Chickpeas
Yield 2-3 servings
Ladle this spicy rage over fettuccine or pappardelle and finish with garlicky stewed tomatoes and crisped up green chickpeas.
Mutton mince 500g
Olive oil 2 tbsp, plus 2 tbsp for crisping up the chickpeas
Butter 1 tbsp
Onions 2, medium-sized or 1 large, finely chopped
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder 2 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Harissa 2 tbsp (I used homemade harissa, but you can use the bottled stuff as well)
Olive tapenade 1 tbsp or 2 tbsp black olives, chopped finely
Capers 1 tbsp (I used organic capers from Ishka farms)
Salt and pepper
Tomatoes 2-3 small, desi tomatoes preferably, quartered, else opt for cherry tomatoes, halved,
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
Garlic 3-4 cloves, crushed and chopped roughly
Green chickpeas or hara chana 100g
Chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Take a medium-sized kadai or saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in the butter and the olive oil and let it get hot.
Once the oil and butter are hot, add in the onions and saute for a minute on high heat before reducing the heat slightly and adding a pinch of salt. Continue cooking the onions till they have browned very well. This is important because it adds depth to the sauce later.
Once the onions have browned well, add in the mince and vigorously stir the mince together with the brown onions to combine them, but also to brown the meat. After a good six to eight minutes of doing so, add in the turmeric, coriander and cumin powders, half teaspoon of salt and harissa, and mix vigorously again. Add just a smidgen of water to bring everything together. Lower the heat, put a lid on and let the mince cook for 15-20 minutes undisturbed.
After the mince has been cooking for 15-20 minutes, take the lid off and add in the tapenade, capers and again leave the mince to cook for 10 more minutes. At the end of the cooking time, check the mince by tasting it. It should feel melt in the mouth tender rather than as separate granules of meat. Once you have achieved this result, scrape the mince from the pan and to the same pan, add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil.
When hot, add in the green chickpeas with the chilli powder and toss the chickpeas repeatedly till it starts to blister and crisp up. Once it is crispy, drain the chickpeas on paper towels and set this aside too.
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, add in the extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, reduce the heat and add in the garlic. Let the garlic perfume the oil for a few seconds by tossing it around with a flick of the wrist. When fragrant, add in the tomatoes with a bit of salt and increase the heat to a medium-low. Let the tomatoes colour the oil and soften in a few minutes. After 5 minutes, drain the tomatoes from the oil and you can use this garlic infused oil for another purpose.
Serve this harissa ragu over pappardelle or fettuccine, with the garlicky tomatoes and crisped up green chickpeas for texture.