This hot, aromatic paste made from chilli and assorted other spices and herbs is spicy and fragrant. It’s widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines as a condiment, or mixed with water or tomato juice to flavour stews, soups or couscous. In North Africa it’s also sometimes served in a pool of olive oil, into which to dip bread. As it’s strong and pungent, a little goes a long way.

Choose the best

You can find it ready-made in jars and cans, and sometimes as a paste, in a tube. It’s also available as a powder, to which you add oil and garlic.

Prepare it

Shop-bought varieties are ready to use straight away, unless they’re the powdered type (see above). It’s also possible to make your own with a food processor; a basic recipe includes dried red chilles, garlic, salt, fresh coriander, caraway seeds and olive oil but you can also add smoked paprika, cumin and mint. If possible, leave to stand for around 12 hours before using, to allow the flavours to develop.

Store it

Keep it a cool, dry place. Once opened, it should be stored in the fridge and will last for up to 6 weeks.

Cook it

Add to a marinade or use as a rub; add to soups, pasta sauces or couscous; mix a teaspoon into some olive oil and use to dress roasted root vegetables.

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