Harissa Chicken Ciabatta

Harissa Chicken Ciabatta

Harissa is a Tunisian hot chilli sauce which can be used in many ways. It can be used as a marinade or rub on meat or fish. Halloumi cheese marinated in harissa and fried or griddled is divine. You can also use it as flavouring to add to stews, soups, hummus, pasta and couscous. It can be added to roast vegetables to liven them up a bit. I could go on, but you get the picture!

I was looking at Donna Hay’s Fast, Fresh, Simple book and she has a recipe for a Smoked Chilli Chicken Burger with rocket and lemon mayonnaise which sounded delicious. I decided that it might be worth trying but using harissa as the marinade. I used to buy my harissa in Tesco but it’s yet another product that my local shop seems to have stopped stocking. (This is getting annoying Tesco!)

Anyway, I have a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. The recipes in this book are mouth watering. He has a recipe in this for making your own harissa paste and it is really straightforward. Below is my version. I say my version, basically I don’t have any caraway seeds and read that cumin is a good substitute so I upped the amount of cumin. Also I used a jarred red pepper but in the book Ottolenghi gives instructions on how to blacken a fresh pepper and use that. The paprika is my own touch – which probably means it is far from authentic. It is meant to be hot but you can add or use fewer chillies to control the heat to your taste. You can make up a jar of the harissa in advance and store in the fridge.

This recipe produces about 200ml.



  • 1 jarred red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 11/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion roughly chopped (approx. 90g in total)
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of smoked paprika

Harissa paste


  • Place a dry frying pan on a low heat and lightly toast the coriander and cumin seeds for about 2 mins. You will get a gorgeous smell from the pan when they are toasted.
  • Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder.
  • Heat the olive oil in the frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and chillies on a medium heat. Cook to a dark smoky colour until they are almost caramelised. That can take 10-15 mins depending on the size you have cut them.
  • Use a hand blender, liquidizer or a food processor and blitz all of the ingredients until you have a smooth paste. Add a little more oil if needed.
  • Store in a sterilized* jar in the fridge. It will keep for at least 2 weeks.

Harissa | A Cookbook Collection

* To sterilize a jar just run it through the dishwasher or wash with warm soapy water and dry it out in a low oven. Make sure not to put your fingers inside the jar once it has been sterilized.


Serves 2


  • Approx a third of your harissa paste or 2 tbsp of shop bought
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 individual ciabattas
  • Rocket leaves
  • Lemon juice
  • Mayonnaise

Harissa Chicken Ciabatta 2


  • First, butterfly your chicken breasts. This makes your chicken thinner, which makes it cook faster, which keeps the meat juicy. Do this by placing the breast on a clean solid surface. Trim the breasts and cut off the mini fillet on the side (I don’t know what it’s called) but don’t throw it away. Use a long sharp knife and carefully cut the breast along the long side of the chicken. As you can see in the pic above, I did it on the wrong side. Obviously I saw some strange butterflies as a child! Not to worry, it worked fine. Slice through almost to the end but don’t cut open all the way. Fold out the chicken so that it is really flat.
  • Mix the oil, harissa paste, honey and lemon juice to make a marinade.
  • Put the marinade in a bowl with the chicken and mix well until the chicken is completely covered. Allow to marinate for at least 30 mins.
  • When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and heat a griddle pan over a high heat until it is smoking hot. Use a frying pan if you don’t have a griddle plan but you may have to add some oil.
  • Put the ciabatta loaves in the oven and heat for 8-10 mins.
  • Place the chicken on the griddle pan. It will only take a few minutes either side to cook. Check by slicing into the thickest part of the breasts if you are unsure if it is cooked.
  • Mix lemon juice and mayonnaise until you get the flavour you are looking for. I use approx. 3 tbsp of mayo to 3 tsp of lemon juice.
  • Cut the ciabattas in half lengthways. Smear over the lemon mayo and add rocket leaves and the chicken.


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