Go ahead and spread

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - FOOD - • Text and pho­tos by PAS­CALE PEREZ-RU­BIN

Every few months, I re­or­ga­nize my pantry and re­new my sup­ply of ba­sic in­gre­di­ents. Each com­mu­nity has its own spe­cial blend of spices, which plays a ma­jor role in that re­gion’s cui­sine. There are a num­ber of spice rubs and spreads that are com­monly used in North African cui­sine, and which play a very sig­nif­i­cant role in many dishes.

A num­ber of these items are mass-pro­duced in Is­rael and can eas­ily be pur­chased in gro­cery stores and mar­kets, but their qual­ity and taste can­not com­pare with home­made spreads.

This week, I bought bushels of red pep­pers, as well as sweet and hot dried pep­pers. In ad­di­tion, I bought lots of hot green pep­pers, herbs and spices. I’m so happy to fi­nally be able to re­spond to my read­ers who’ve re­quested recipes for spicy spreads, and tell them, Yes! the time has fi­nally ar­rived.

So, I donned my apron and got ready to work. I pre­pared lots of lit­tle jars of pep­pery spreads, tied a pretty rib­bon on top, and gave them as presents to friends and fam­ily. When I was done, I re­al­ized that I should prob­a­bly bring them some­thing to calm the fire in their mouths, so I baked a batch of Moroc­can frena bread that can be eaten with the spreads.

Here is a short de­scrip­tion of the four spreads:


Orig­i­nat­ing in Tripoli, Libya, pilpelchum­a is a clas­sic spread that can be pre­pared in ei­ther a mild or spicy ver­sion. It is made from spicy pa­prika, sweet pa­prika, salt, oil, wa­ter, a huge amount of gar­lic, cumin and car­away.


This Tu­nisian ver­sion of harissa must be made very spicy. It is pre­pared from hot dried red pep­pers, salt, gar­lic and cumin. The pep­pers are rinsed and soaked in wa­ter and tehina.

Pep­per and herb spread

A mild spread made from hot green pep­pers, pars­ley, co­rian­der, fresh gar­lic, olive oil and cumin.

Mildly spicy spread

This spread is per­fect if you’re in a hurry. It calls for lots of chopped toma­toes.

TU­NISIAN HARISSA Makes 1 medium jar

1 kg. dried red pep­pers Wa­ter for soak­ing 2 cups oil

1 cup wa­ter

Cut the tops off and then de-seed the pep­pers. Soak them in wa­ter for 15 min­utes. Rinse them well and then grind pep­pers with a hand blender or meat grinder. Add the salt, oil and wa­ter and mix well with your (gloved) hand or with an elec­tric mixer. Pour mix­ture into jars and pour a lit­tle oil on top so that it doesn’t dry out (about 3 ta­ble­spoons in each jar).

PILPELCHUM­A Makes 1 medium jar

200 gr. hot cayenne pep­per, ground 3 cloves of gar­lic, peeled, rinsed, and smashed or crushed

3 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground car­away

2-3 tsp. salt

½-²⁄3 cup oil

In a bowl, add 1 ta­ble­spoon of ground pep­per and a lit­tle of the crushed gar­lic. Mix well. Add an­other spoon­ful of pep­per and gar­lic and mix. Con­tinue un­til all of the pep­per and gar­lic are mixed. Add a lit­tle wa­ter, if nec­es­sary. Sea­son with cumin, car­away, salt and oil. Mix well. If you’d like it to be a lit­tle more di­luted, add two to three spoon­fuls of oil or wa­ter. Trans­fer to a glass jar and seal well.

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