This aromatic paste of dried red chillies, cumin, fresh garlic and preserved lemons is similar to Tunisian harissa, but has only four main ingredients. It keeps for months, out of the fridge, in a sealed jar, and is made in minutes in a blender or small grinder.
It's delicious added in (small!) dabs to yoghurt- or oil-based marinades, stirred into tomato-based sauces, or with pasta, couscous or rice. Flicked over a fried egg, it's eye-wateringly good.
You can add any spices you like - coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, and so on - to this paste, but I like it just as it is. If you don't have preserved lemons to hand (do you know they keep beautifully in the freezer?), use finely grated lemon zest.
This looks like an enormous quantity of chillies, but the mixture makes just one jar.
Scorching Chilli, Garlic and Cumin Paste
45 dried red chillies
2 heads of fresh garlic
a preserved lemon
4 T (60 ml) fresh powdered cumin
enough olive or sunflower oil to make a wet paste
Soak the dried chillies in a bowl of water overnight, weighing them down with a plate so that they are totally submerged. Put on a pair of gloves and, using the sharp pair of scissors, snip off the stalks, slit the chillies lengthways and scrape out most of the seeds. It doesn't matter if you leave a few behind. Put them into the goblet of a blender fitted with a metal blade. Peel the garlic and add the whole cloves to the blender. Scrape the pulpy flesh away from the quarters preserved lemon, chop roughly, and add to the mixture, along with a good pinch of salt. Now half-cover the ingredients with olive oil, cover the blender and blitz to a fine paste. If the blades clog, add more oil. Tip into a glass or plastic jar, cover with a little more olive oil and seal tightly.
Makes 1 jar.