Hye Thyme Cafe: Beef and Lentil Harissa Chili

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Beef and Lentil Harissa Chili

Beef and Lentil Harissa Chili : Hye Thyme Cafe

When I saw that Marx Foods was holding a chile pepper challenge, it reminded me that I still had peppers left from an earlier set of samples they had sent me. I jumped at the challenge, thinking it would give me the push I needed to try a few things that have been on my to-do list for a while now - Lentil Chili was one, and Harissa (the chile paste) was another.

When I let them know that I still had chiles left from an earlier occasion, and offered to use those, I was thinking the same variety would be distributed to the participants for this challenge. Silly me! I forget how extensive their collection is. If you're not familiar with Marx Foods, head over to their website and check them out. It's like Nirvana for foodies. They've got all kinds of unusual things to play with. Not sure if the chiles I had on hand put me at a disadvantage or an advantage, but either way, it got me to try a few new things.

The challenge was to come up with one recipe, so my submission is this lentil chile. I realize that chile isn't the most creative idea, but I have had it in mind since receiving a sample of lentils recently from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council (I ended up using that sample for a Lentil Kufte) and then having Harissa for the first time at my birthday dinner this year at NOLA's.

The other reason I chose to do this was for the Harissa itself. Harissa is also the name of the national dish of Armenia (a chicken dish), so I thought it might be interesting to combine the two versions. Then I saw that there is an Algerian dessert by that name as well, so I just had to make that too!  :)

Sooooo, while on this chile kick, I made the following over the past few days (will post all the recipes this week) :


Harissa Paste (with Guajillo and Pasilla peppers)

Beef and Lentil Harissa Chili : Hye Thyme Cafe

Beef and Lentil Harissa Chili 

Harissa (Armenian chicken dish) - served with Harissa Paste

Harissa (Algerian almond dessert)
No chiles were injured in the making of this confection.



Honeydew Granita (with New Mexico chiles)  !! AWESOME !!

Chewy Ancho Chile Pretzel Bites with Lime Salt

Items I have previously made with the chiles I received from Marx Foods include:

OK, back to the recipe at hand ... 

2 t cumin seeds
1 t corriander seeds
1/2 t caraway seeds
3 pieces star anise
3 T granualted guajillo peppers
2 T granulated pasilla peppers
3 cloves garlic
1/2 t salt
pinch of cinnamon
12 oz roasted red peppers
1 T olive oil

In a dry pan over medium heat, warm the seeds and dry peppers until fragrant and just starting to toast.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Run the seed mix through a spice grinder, then add the garlic and continue until it forms a paste.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor, add the cinnamon, red peppers, and olive oil, and pulse again until it comes together in a silky paste.

2 lb lean ground beef (I used 85%)
1 large sweet onion
1 T jarred minced garlic with red peppers
1 can Delmonte Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes with Zesty Jalapeno
16 oz bag of lentils
1 beef bouillon cube
32 oz beef broth
1 t dark brown sugar
1 T tomato paste
6 T harissa paste

In a large pot, saute the ground beef until just a little pink is left, then add the garlic and onion and continue cooking until the onions start to soften.

Add the tomatoes, then stir in the lentils (rinsed and checked for stones), enough beef broth to cover, and the bouillon cube.

Let it come to a boil, and when the lentils suck up that first round of broth and plump up, go ahead and add your brown sugar, tomato paste, and 4T of the harissa.  

Reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils reach your desired tenderness, adding more broth as needed (depends how thick you like it). Wait until the end to add in the last 2T of harissa.

To serve, ladle up a bowl and top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh sliced jalapenos or some chopped scallions or cilantro.

Beef and Lentil Harissa Chili : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was excited to note that everyone really enjoy this version. One member of the Peanut Gallery actually declared that they prefer the lentil version over the more traditional beef with beans.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the harissa flavor. I wasn't sure how strong it would be in the chili, so I started off with 3T and kept adding more. There was definitely extra for anyone who wanted to add more and for me to use with my other Harissa recipe. Both the Harissa Paste and this Chili will be making a regular appearance at our table from now on!

Thanks again to Marx Foods for the push to try new things (and of course for the chile samples).

p.s.  This is a challenge, so all participating entries will be up for voting soon. I would appreciate your keeping that in mind and heading over to Marx to vote for your favorite recipe - even if it's not mine. Just make sure you don't tell me if you voted for someone else, or I might feel compelled to start forwarding to you all my Viagra and other lovely spam email!  ;)


  1. Your blog is amazing! So many unique and delicious sounding recipes. I love how you chose to use the chiles.

  2. Well Thank You Maren, that was very sweet of you! I did have fun playing with the peppers. I love trying new things, so when these challenges come up, that's usually when I do something "different." They make me think a little.


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