I wouldn’t claim to be a perfect mother by any stretch of the imagination. The ability to discipline, for example, appears to be something that has completely passed me by; lack of motivation is almost certainly the cause because, unfortunately, mischief amuses me no end. I’m apparently known amongst Léo’s friends as a bit of a pushover and I have, no doubt, the same reputation amongst the animals. A healthy diet for my son though is something that I do usually manage quite well. I had to provide a picnic the other day as he was attending an all-day riding course. Picnics for Léo are an absolute minefield because he doesn’t do, amongst other things, warm cheese, soggy bread, raw vegetables, floppy salad, softened chocolate etc. In other words, he doesn’t really do picnics. He does, however, have a bit of a thing for ketchup so, in an attempt to dilute the menace of the healthier components of his sandwich, I applied liberally. More fool me. When I went to fetch him, he shouted (loudly) in front of over a dozen other people: ‘Maman, you totally ruined my sandwiches by drowning them in ketchup – they were inedible!’. I think in future he’ll either be getting a generous dollop of this eye-wateringly spicy harissa instead, or learning to make his own sandwiches!
Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives them their strong spicy pungent flavour. Capsaicin has antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, analgesic and antidiabetic properties. Fresh chilli peppers are also a rich source of vitamin C and contain other antioxidants such as vitamin A, lutein and beta carotene. They also provide reasonable quantities of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
15 chili peppers, rinsed, topped and tailed
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for jar
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Put the chilies into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak until softened (about 20 minutes). Heat the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat. Toast the spices for about four minutes until very fragrant. Drain the chilies and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the spices, olive oil, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged. Refrigerate, topping off with a little more oil after each use.