A fantastic salad is based on an old recipe I found over at Smitten Kitchen and my own recipe for harissa which is inspired by Franck Dangereux.

The combination of harissa with carrots is sublime due to the cumin and caraway. Carrots, feta, and mint are also a classic, so this salad is combining everything so I  was a no brainer to add to the roster of salads I prepare for Chantal’s work lunches.

Harissa is a versatile North African chile paste that we first properly encountered about 20 years ago when we visited Morocco for holidays. Hot chilies ground to a paste with garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway, (sundried) tomatoes, and olive oil. We had loads of different variations of this fabulous condiment there, and it is very versatile with meat, grains, stews, but also on eggs and sandwiches.

Back home, there was not much to choose from and the store-bought ones, which are usually heavy on the chilies. My own concoction is based on the Harissa de Nadèje recipe from Franck Dangereux’s Feast at Home cookbook, and over time, I didn’t tweak very much. I do now prefer less chili in it, so I go for the 1 tbsp quantity of chopped regular red chili peppers and bit more oil to make it more sauce-like. Consequently, if I want some straight-up heat in a dish, I usually revert to Tabasco, Sambal, Gochujang, or Sriracha, but if I want a more complex, spicy depth of flavor with a slight kick, I always go for this Harissa.

By using the food processor and not bothering to roast the spices, this is a speedy version; you can make it in either 5 or 25 minutes. Oven roasting the red pepper is recommended from a flavor perspective, but it is something you need to keep your eye on to ensure an even charring. It usually takes about 20 minutes to grill and to cool down sufficiently to handle. If you are in a hurry, you can also skip this step and buy a jar of grilled red peppers. Just give them a good rinse to get off the vinegary taste before chucking them in the food processor.

The harissa (yields approx. 350ml / 1½ cup)

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 70g / 2½ oz tomato paste
  • ½ medium onion, peeled
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped red chili peppers (to taste and depending on the pepper used)
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 120ml / ½ cup olive oil
  1. Blacken the pepper on all sides under a hot grill.
  2. Place the pepper in a lidded container and let cool enough to handle. This should facilitate peeling the blackened pepper. Then remove the seeds.
  3. Place the caraway, cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar and crush them.
  4. Put all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and blend. Then steadily add the olive oil through the hole in the lid.
  5. When combined, you will have delicious harissa that you can put in (sterilized) lidded jars, which will keep in the fridge for about a month.

The salad:

350g / ¾ lb carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated or julienned
4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
½ tsp caraway seeds
¾ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp paprika powder
1 tsp harissa (adjust to your taste and to the heat level of your harissa)
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
100g / 3½ oz feta, crumbled

I like the texture of the caraway and cumin seeds in the salad, but if you want to use ground spices, use about half the quantity mentioned above. As said, my harissa is more about spices rather than heat, so I started with 1 teaspoon, tasted, and ended up adding 2 tablespoons.

  1. In a small frying pan, cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa, and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt and mix.
  3. Pour over the carrots and mix. Then add the herbs, mix again, and leave to infuse for at least an hour.
  4. Add the feta just before eating and garnish with some more parsley and mint.

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