Chermoula is one of those North African spice blends/sauces/marinades where each country has their own variation on a theme. Most of the blends start with garlic and coriander. I am using the chermoula as both a marinade for tri-tip and as a sauce, so I made a double batch. Here I am providing the single batch recipe.
The Moroccans usually add dried parsley, cumin, paprika. However, the proportions of each ingredient, I am sure, depends on the spice merchant’s secret family recipe. To make this an Algerian chermoula, replace the dried parsley with one cup of fresh minced cilantro. This sauce looks and may be use like a pesto. Tunisian chermoula is a completely different sauce and includes red onion, raisins and rose petals.
You may make a chermoula blend without oil to use as a quick dry rub for grilling meat. You may also add oil and citrus juice to turn it into a sauce or marinade to top a wide variety of dishes. It is frequently use it to top a finished dish or to stir it into a tajine at the last minute.
I have created my own blend of chermoula and as a final flourish I decided to add a dash of piri-piri. This is a sauce, made with North African piri-piri peppers, that I discovered making last week’s Azores/Portuguese feast. It is not super hot, like North African harissa, but it has a distinctive flavor. In San Jose, piri-piri is available at L & F Fish Market and Bacalhau Grill & Trade Rite Market.
I thought—when I tasted the sauce strait—that it was a bit harsh with all that raw garlic. I tried cooking a spoonful, like I would for a Sichuan Sauce, but that only “muddied” the taste. One idea would be to toast the garlic whole, before crushing it to add to the sauce. I will probably do that next time.
After Dinner Note: Even as harsh as it was, this was a big hit with the kids. It is not “harsh,” it is “piquant.” I do not like too spicy, but even I thought it could have used more piri-piri.
Karl’s Moroccan Chermoula
1 Tbs. coriander seeds
½ Tbs. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black pepper corns
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
½ Tbs. dried parsley
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. salt
5 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbs. lemon juice, fresh
½-2 tsp. Piri-piri pepper sauce
1. Toast the coriander, cumin and pepper in a dry small skillet until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
2. Use a spice grinder to process them into a powder.
Tip: I use a dedicated electric coffee grinder, but you are free to go traditional and use a mortar and pestle.
3. Place the ground spices in a small mixing bowl and add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Mix well.
Tip: How much piri-piri you use depends on your diners’ taste. Jan does not like it too spicy, but Miriam and Chris like it really hot. I am putting the bottle on piri-piri on the table; so that the dinners may spice it up to their heart’s content.
Note: I used ½ teaspoon of piri-piri, and even Jan and I thought this was too little.