Harissa is an ingredient I am quite fond of. Not only for its intense taste, but because I was introduced to it in a restaurant in Paris and the whole experience was pretty magical. It was my first time enjoying Moroccan couscous. I was with a Parisian friend who ordered the Couscous Royale, a real feast with several types of meat, including lamb and merguez (which I fell in love with at first bite). But what I remember the most was the waiter offering to add some harissa to our plate. He grabbed a ladle of the couscous broth, added this sexy red paste to it, mixed it with a small spoon, and poured it over our serving of couscous. Just a little bit, so I could decide if I wanted more, which obviously I did. When I learned from Ottolenghi that there’s this thing called Rose Harissa, I could not wait to get it and try it. If you think the regular kind is sexy, this one is sexy and she knows it.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from Ottolenghi’s Simple)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 celery ribs, diced
5 boneless, skin-less chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons rose harissa
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, sliced thin
1 can stewed tomatoes
15 g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
1 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
cilantro to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker or regular large sauce pan. Sautee the celery pieces seasoned with salt and pepper until very fragrant and soft. Add the chicken pieces, let them briefly color on both sides. Add the harissa and the paprika and saute it all together for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes and the juices, the red bell pepper, and if cooking under pressure, add just about 1/2 cup of water, or enough to cover the  meat. Add the chocolate pieces, cover the pan and cook under pressure for 25 minutes. If using a regular pan, add the full cup of water and simmer it all gently for 40 minutes or longer, until the meat is very tender. After 30 minutes, add the pieces of chocolate and mix to dissolve.

When the meat is tender, or the pressure cooking time is elapsed, remove the chicken and, if needed, reduce the sauce and use an immersion blender to make it a bit more smooth. No need to fully blend it, just process until some pieces of tomato and red bell pepper still remain more or less intact.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and lemon juice right before serving.

Spoon the sauce over the reserved pieces of chicken, serve with white rice, mashed cauliflower, polenta… anything you like.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I opened the pressure cooker, I was hit with such intense peppery blast, that I thought dinner was ruined. Thankfully, it was not the case. The sauce turned out with a very nice flavor, hot, but not burning-hot, the rose component just made it all taste complex. We liked it so much that, contrary to what happens most of the time, I had nothing left for my lunch next day. We stopped when all chicken thighs were gone. Pups got nothing, not even a taste. Yeap, that’s how greedy we were.

We had quite a bit of leftover sauce, which I used as the basis for a turkey chili made a couple of evenings later. It would go very well with lamb, perhaps a perfect pairing for that tender lamb I spoke about not too long ago. And now, I am on a mission to find new uses for my sexy Rose Harissa. If only all life’s problems were as hard as this one…


ONE YEAR AGO: Caramel-Chocolate Tartlets

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Korma-ish

THREE YEARS AGO: Sunday Gravy with Braciola

FOUR YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

SIX YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version






    • it’s a great book – I sometimes feel Ottolenghi does too much to the food, you know what I mean? It’s always such a collection of spices and flavors that sometimes the flavor of the actually food is masked. I know everybody loves Ottolenghi, and I do too, but… well.. you might know what I mean. The Rose harissa is spectacular, though. Worth searching for, or caving and getting from amazon.


  1. Man, your description of the Couscous Royale in that setting made my mouth water. I’d love to experience that someday.

    I’ve paired Harissa with lamb, and it indeed a treat. The sweetness of the lamb is a great counterpoint. Is it my imagination or is Harissa the new “Thing” now? I’ve certainly been seeing more of it on the shelves of my local grocery stores, where previously I would have to venture in to ethnic markets to find it. (I went on a berbere kick for a while – doro wat is a similar chicken dish that I loved, and the traditional injera bread pairs wonderfully with it. But wifey….melts. Irish. Anything spicier than a marshmallow makes her swoon. And retch.)

    Your poor doggies 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • it was pretty amazing that evening in Paris… when they bring the ROyale to the table, they put those little sparkly thingies – forgot what you call them.. You know the ones that you put on birthday cakes in fancy restaurants or kids’ parties? They set sparkles like tiny fireworks – so the whole thing is quite spectacular. They only do that for th Royale, so if I wasn’t with someone who was a real connaisseur, I would have missed the experience. It sounds cheesy, the sparkling thins, but it’s not. Well, it was not. Maybe because it was so unexpected to me – this was many years ago, I think 1992. Anyway, harissa is forever linked to that in my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I’m going to have to give this one a try! I’ll get my hands on the rose harissa; I can understand the magical Parisian association … our memories are so intricately linked to food, sweet nostalgia. And the chocolate… a little mole action is always welcome ✨ thank you for the delicious inspiration.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Now small world and all that: been making a lot of my own harissa blends and pastes recently and made a similar dish with some chicken. But yours looks amazing. And I really MUST add chocolate next time: love a touch in savoury dishes

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What future fascinating discoveries ! I cook Tunisian more than Moroccan but harissa is a baseline always. Now: have never ever actually bought rose harissa tho’ it is freely available at a numbat of my favourite Sydney spice merchants. Simply as I have had ‘bad’ experiences with our local ‘ras el hanout; which, naturally is used all the time – at least two of the merchants have theirs so highly ‘powered’ with rose petals they make the dish far too rich, quirky and unpleasant on the palate . . .have had a look you harissa is freely available and shall certainly try: thank you for the challenge . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Sally. I bought two jars of rose harissa shortly after you first posted this recipe. I LOVE it! Actually going to try your chicken thigh recipe tonight. Can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

Click here to comment, love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.