Hye Thyme Cafe: Trifecta of Harissa - Is This What They Mean By Fusion Cuisine??

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! :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Trifecta of Harissa - Is This What They Mean By Fusion Cuisine??

Algerian Harissa : Hye Thyme Cafe

Having recently tried Harissa (the North African chile paste) for the first time, and having grown up eating Harissa (Armenian chicken dish), when I came across a post about yet a THIRD version of Harissa, I thought it was just too weird to pass up the opportunity to combine them.  Strangely, the third version I had seen looked like some sort of a puff pastry, but when I went to look for it again to read it, I couldn't find it.  I was thinking I could combine the others and serve them inside that one; oh well. I did, however, find yet a FOURTH version of Harissa (an Algerian almond confection), so I decided to combine the first two and serve the last with them for dessert. Talk about fusion cuisine! African/Armenian/Algerian. Hey, now that I'm looking at that, maybe I should have entitled this post AAA Harissa.  ;) 

I have previously posted the recipes for both the Armenian Harissa and the Harissa Paste, so I will focus on the Algerian Harissa here. As far as the others go, the Armenian version is traditionally served with a pat of butter melted over the top and a sprinkling of paprika. I did stick with the butter to add that richness to the dish, but rather than seasoning it with paprika, I topped it with a dollop of the Harissa Paste and stirred it in. Turned out to be a delicious combination and something I would equate to a Chicken Chili with the flavor but not the heat.

The recipe I found called for rose water or orange blossom water, neither of which I could find, so I used orange juice. It also called for blanched almonds, and all I had on hand were whole almonds and seasoned almonds, so I blanched some of the whole almonds myself. I think this recipe has promise, but the texture is not quite what I was looking for - not that I know what it was supposed to be. [Hey Marla, if you're reading this, next time you talk to Moh, ask him if he's had this and what the texture should be.] 

I'm thinking next time, I'll toast the almonds first to get a finer grind on them and use the same amount of butter (guessed at since what I was reading called for a teacup full??), but cut back on the syrup so it's lighter.

2c finely ground blanched almonds
1 c sugar
6 T melted butter
Juice of 1 large orange
Food coloring of choice

I started by plunging the almonds into boiling water for about a minute, then running them under cold water and skinning them. I was surprised how easily the skins popped off. I first rubbed them together in a dry dish towel and some of the skins came off that way. For the rest, once I figured out to pinch them by the back end, they jumped right out of their clothes. Guess almonds don't like getting goosed.  ;)

Grind the almonds as finely as you can without it turning into a paste.  

Bring the sugar and orange juice up to a boil and let it simmer for about three minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat.

Pour the melted butter and orange syrup over the almonds and stir until it feels thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add any coloring you wish to use. Since I used orange juice rather than rose water, I opted to stick with a little orange coloring.

Chill for a while to set, then form into whatever shape you want them in. I just rolled them into balls and flattened them a little in mini cupcake liners. Garnish as desired.  I was shooting for powdered sugar on top with a sprinkle of orange zest, but as you can see, between the time I sprinkled the sugar and took the pic, the moisture wicked up the sugar. That's what happens when you're trying to plate hot Beef and Lentil Chili and Harissa (before the melted butter soaks in) at the same time as a moist confection with powdered sugar on top and another with shaved ice!  I'll get the hang of it ... EVENTUALLY ... (hopefully).  If you're wondering why I was plating all those things together, check out my Beef and Lentil Chili post.

Algerian Harissa : Hye Thyme Cafe

I definitely enjoyed the almond/orange combination, so I'm thinking that toasting the almonds slightly will bring out that flavor even more. The idea of this reminds me of an another Armenian dish made with Cream of Wheat, Imrig Halva. Some people press it into a pan, cover it with a simple syrup and cut it into diamonds like a candy. Either way, I'm still left wondering why there are so many completely different dishes out there going by the same name.

Ooh, it just crossed my mind to incorporate coconut into this somehow.  Hmmmm ...

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