29 October 2010

Cayenne pepper paste

La pâte de piments — the chili pepper paste or puree — came out perfect, and it was easy to do. Simmering the Cayenne peppers in a little water, and then cutting them into pieces coarsely with kitchen scissors, meant minimal contact with my hands and no pepper vapor or dust in my eyes. I have to say that the vapor did get up my nose a little, but it wasn't unpleasant — not the way it can be when you stir-fry peppers in oil in a wok.

Cook the trimmed peppers in a mixture of water and vinegar.

Most of the ingredients in the recipe below are optional, really. And you could add other flavoring ingredients that you think would be good in the paste. All you really need is peppers, water, and vinegar. Onions, garlic, and ginger are good for extra taste. Tomato paste and carrots reinforce the red color and add sweetness. Smoked paprika gives a smoky edge to the puree, and a little cumin and some herbs can't hurt.

Then cut them up using kitchen scissors.

I turned out that I had about 100 cayenne peppers that were either very red or rapidly turning red, with just a little green and yellow left on them. I used them all, and when I weighed them before cooking, but after trimming off the caps, I had almost exactly a pound of them — 450 grams.

Cayenne pepper paste

I'll let the pictures speak for me and put the recipe I formulated at the end of this post. This is a pepper puree or paste in the style of the North African pepper paste called harissa, which is indispensable as a condiment with couscous or tajines.

I didn't grate the carrots but I should have. They would
have been easier to pass through the food mill.

Speaking of the food mill...

The fine blade of the food mill strains out the seeds and skins
as it purees the peppers and vegetables.

Here's what's left, to be discarded.

I decided to freeze the puree in ice cube trays.

Cayenne Pepper Paste

100 or so Cayenne peppers (about 1 lb.)
2 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
2 carrots, grated
2 small onions, diced
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. mild smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. grated ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. fresh coriander (cilantro) or other herb

Wash the peppers in cold water and then cut off the caps at the stem end. Put the peppers, seeds and all, in a saucepan and pour in the water and vinegar. Add the salt and the bay leaf.

Let the peppers cook, covered, on medium low heat for 30 minutes. Then cut them up coarsely. Use kitchen scissors to minimize contact with your skin).

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and a little more water, just enough to barely cover all the ingredients. Continue to cook, covered, for 60 more minutes. Add water as needed to keep the peppers moistened.

Let the cooked peppers and vegetables cool and then run everything through a food mill, using the finest blade, or press it through a sieve, to eliminate the skin, seeds, and fibers.

Put the puree back on very low heat and let it simmer until it becomes a thick paste. Be careful not to let it scorch.


  1. After reading your blog, I feel like having couscous for breakfast, but Le Vent des Sables is a little far! I'll just close my eyes and try to remember the one we've had at la Renaudière a few years back!

  2. Funny, I just bought Harissa at
    Williams-Sonoma, and few days ago, I watched "le grain et le mullet".
    This is a good recipe for people who grow a lot of hot peppers.

  3. On a scale of 1 - 10, how hot is your paste? It looks delicious.

  4. Ann, I think the paste is at least a 9, maybe a 10. I touched a frozen cube of it today, to see if it was hard frozen, and then I touched the end of my finger to my tongue. The burn lasted for a few minutes.

  5. Great recipes thanks, I love reading your blogs and looking at your photos, I have been reading them for a while now but this time that I could post as your word verification is never working when I log in.

    Claire from Brisbane QLD

  6. Claire,
    Hope this will help.I have that problem most often, but I found out that when the verification word doesn't appear, I just type a few letters at random in that box and click on Publish Your Comment as if I had the right verification word. Then blogger will reopen the window, my comment still showing, telling me the verification word was wrong, BUT it SHOWS NOW a verification word that I can type and it WORKS. LOL

  7. Thanks CHM

    I this ago as I have word verification now.

    Claire from Brisbane QLD

    that worked.

  8. Thanks CHM

    I will this ago as I have no word verification now. that worked.
    I mean't to say in my second post.

    Claire from Brisbane QLD

    Now I have got word verification working.


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