Harissa paste and then harissa marinated olives

harissa olives
Harissa is one of those condiments that is going to be a hell of a shock for your white bread, margarine and mayonnaise sandwich eating ass. Yeah, you probably won’t try it… it’s one of those things you “just wouldn’t like”. That is possibly one of my least favourite lines ever – “I just wouldn’t like that”. How do you know if you’ve never tried it? The satisfaction I get when I can make someone eat those recklessly spoken words is unfathomable… back to the harissa though.

Harissa is a spicy condiment commonplace in the kitchens of Tunisia, and for good reason.

Roughly about as subtle as the underwear display at Mardi Gras, this is a 4-hit combo straight to the top of your dome. Aromatic with garlic, sweet with roasted capsicum, heady with cumin seed and fresh coriander, and spicy with chilli… very similar to an Arabic bazaar in your face, complete with belly dancers and monkeys with funny little hats.

Yes it has a good strong flavour, perfect to stir though steamed mussels, or maybe with some slow roasted lamb with yoghurt, or even mixed with a little mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich, or, as in the recipe I will be sharing with you today, used as a marinade for olives.

Get it all roasted off and then blitzy blitzy
Get it all roasted off and then blitzy blitzy

Looking good
Looking good

Just like a bought one, in fact
Just like a bought one, in fact


3 capsicum (bell peppers), it really doesn’t matter too much what colour they are… unless they are brown. Brown generally means they’ve gone a little past their use by date
5-10 long red chilli, depending on how spicy you like it
5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cumin seed, roasted & ground
½ bunch coriander, stems and roots and all, washed and then roughly chopped
60ml extra virgin olive oil

• Heat oven to 200C
• Place capsicum in an oven proof dish, rub with a little of the olive oil and season with a little of the salt. Whack it into the oven for 10 minutes
• Add chilli and garlic to oven dish, toss a little and whack it back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes (you should have a few charry blistery bits going on by now)
• Allow to cool for a few minutes until you can get in there and peel back some of the charred bits of skin. Kind of a get of whatever you can be assed ripping off at the time type mission… much like having sex with your socks on. You can be as frugal or as frivolous with your own charry skin pulling as you please
• Now your roasted goodies can go into a food processer or blender with all of the other ingredients and then blitzed to form a paste, smooth or coarse, it’s your call
• Check seasoning
• Stir harissa through 1-2kg of your favourite olives, leave for at least a day to marinate before eating
• Remaining olives will last for 3 or so weeks in a sealed container in the fridge
• If you decide you like harissa you can double or triple this batch and freeze it down in take away tubs

Olive sexy time
Olive sexy time

Lamb loin chops because the fam is away

Lamb loin chops because the fam is away

Fry fry
Fry fry

So I have a bit of a ritual. I know you’re thinking surely not Grazza, but yes, I have a ritual… and it goes a little like this; once a month or so Jennee takes the boys on a drive up the coast to visit her sister in Brisbane, aka Brisvegas. When this happens I go up to Scotty the butcher, grab myself a few lamb chops, pop next door to George’s shop, grab myself some beer and maybe a bottle of wine if I think my morning can deal with it, and then I drink and cook myself up a dinner of lamby choppy goodness… mostly because Jennee really doesn’t like chops (unless they’re mutton chops. Elvis style)… and it is usually consumed around 9pm (which is well past my bed time on a school night).

Now today (which is now yesterday. Crazy I know but that’s what we can do with technology these days) Jennee took the boys up the coast to visit her sister but, in possibly a fleeting moment’s thought, I decided I was going to venture up the road to the mobile woodfired pizza joint that frequents this area every Friday night (you will hear more about this place in a future foodisthebestshitever) and get myself a pizza dinner, but then… I got talking to my friend and fellow chef Matt over a quiet beer and he happened to mention (by the power of grey skull and the universe and whatever) that he was cooking lamb chops for dinner. Well I tell you now that was it. I jumped straight into my carnie-drawn cart and trotted straight up to our local butcheria. I announced myself as a paying customer and said to little Scotty (there are two Scotties at the butcher. One is called “Scotty” and the other is called “Little Scotty”) “Do you have lamb chops left my good man?” to which he replied, “I have three left, will that do you?” “Jolly good”, I said, “bag them up good fellow”. He chucked them into a bag for me, I paid him his due repentance and then back home it was for me. Which is where I find myself now… getting ready to cook some lamb… it may not be quite 9 o’clock yet but I am truly excited…

In the words of the late, great Ramones, Let’s go!

All you need to get going. Well, that and the vegetables and stuff... and beer... and wine
All you need to get going. Well, that and the vegetables and stuff… and beer… and wine
Fry fry
Fry fry
Even though you are eating by yourself, serve the sauce in a gravy boat... just so you know you are the boss
Even though you are eating by yourself, serve the sauce in a gravy boat… just so you know you are the boss


3 lamb chops, chump or loin are good for me

1 sprig rosemary

1 sprig oregano

2 cloves garlic

some chilli if you like chilli… I like chilli

half a lemon

olive oil

seasoning (that’s salt and pepper yeah)

a splash of red wine (I knew there was a reason I got that too) to deglaze the pan

  • Marinate the lamb with all of the goodies above
  • Cook the lamb how you cook lamb chops. If you are a bad person you will slaughter them with loads of time in the pan and then eat them straight away. If you are a child of god you will give them a couple of minutes either side and then rest them in the pan off the heat… if you are a child of god…
  • When you are ready to serve (after a good 5 minute R’n’R break for you and the chops) remove chops from the pan and administer some more flame. Deglaze the pan with that red wine you’ve been saving for the next papal visit and reduce to a saucy trollop… err, consistency
  • Serve. Sauce on top, sautéed veg on the side


3-4 small potatoes, boiled until just cooked and then sliced

½ zucchini, sliced

a handful of olives that you like

a small chunk of good feta

oil to cook it in. Duck fat would be a good substitute

  • Sauté the potatoes and zucchini over a medium heat
  • When browned and sexy looking (not too sexy looking. They’re never going to be a Princess Leia, or maybe more recently, a Queen Amidala) combine with the feta and olives and maybe a bit of parsley if you have some, and make it look sexy (you know the drill) on the plate… or the floor. Depending on how you roll
  • Don’t go to hard on the salt in here because it’s going to get olives and feta remember. Olives and feta… salty products… they will help to season the dish… bah
  • Add the lamb and you have yourself a meal
  • Well done

… and here’s me just chillin’ by myself. Sometimes no matter how much lamb you eat it’s just not a worthy substitute for a good family.

Maggie Beer’s ox tail with orange, olives and walnuts. Foreword by my Jennee.

Ox tail
Ox tail

Jennee’s bit (not Jennee’s bits you perve! She gave that up years ago when I made an honest woman of her!)

“Some of you may know me as the hard arse, competitive wifee that loves a good slow roast anything and ensures that Gray’s head doesn’t over inflate due to too much praise. But what a lot of people don’t know about me is my penchant for ignoring warning signs that appear on the dash board display of cars and taking fate into my own hands.   I have been known to run out of fuel on a regular occasion, usually when my dad (you may know him as Dr Chris) is in the seat next to me… with a less than impressed look on his face.  I have also been known to ignore the oil light that glows a faint red that means more “red goes faster” than, “red means danger” to me.  And I may also have had a couple of trips, courtesy of the tow man, to the mechanic in order to pump the fuel tank due to the wrong fuel being put in. 


And so that is why I am here today, with time up my sleeve as I wait for said tow man to come and save me in his shiny truck glistening with hope and goodwill, writing this blog post as clearly my work day is now put on hold.  Did I mention that it was the work vehicle that is now being towed? 


I checked in with the man of the house who was knee deep in sunshine and good times at home (it’s a Monday, bloody hospitality slackers!) I relayed my predicament, he laughed, I told him to shut up, he laughed some more, and then told me to come up with a challenge for him for dinner.  I immediately thought, turmeric chicken, my “last meal” if by some chance I commit a crime that is punishable by death, this is what I would ask for, along with sticky rice balls, green papaya salad, pickled cucumber and a bucket load of mind numbing drugs and alcohol to wash the thoughts of impending death away!  But alas, he was not warming to this, probably because I request it the majority of times that he asks me the “dinner” question. 


A challenge I hear him say, something that he has not cooked before I hear him say.  Well as I have seen him cook pretty much everything, I was stumped.  But then… my old friend google came into play. I googled unique recipes, and was pretty excited about what I saw, including recipes for pig rectum sausages, scrambled brains, smoked squirrel and stir fried uterus!  I am pretty sure uterus and rectums are not a staple in the shop of the local butcher so I had to reel it in a little.  I settled on oxtail with oranges and red wine with a gremolata salad.  I eagerly await the taste sensation as I whittle the hours away on the milk crate of the service station.  I think it should also be mentioned that I parked the car really badly too, so I am taking up two spots in the service station.  Much to the annoyance of the business owner!  I hope the tow truck gets hear soon, or I may be lynched by the angry mob of motorists having to use the only fuel pump available!”


My bit

Not being one to back down from a challenge I wiped the happy tears from my eyes and headed straight up to the local butchers. I enquired as to the availability of pig (or any other animal’s) rectum or uterus. My butcher is a big country lad and he just sorta stood there looking at me for a while, a quarter smile on his lips, handed me a bag of ox tail and ushered me quietly from his shop.

So here we are. Today I am cooking ox tail with orange, olives and walnuts a la Maggie Beer

1 ½ brown onion, roughly chopped

1 celery stick, roughly chopped

¼ cup olive oil

70g walnuts

2kg ox tail, trimmed and cut into 5 cm pieces by your butcher

50g unsalted butter

flour for dusting, I used rice flour because Jennee can’t do the gluten

1 cup red wine

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1 handful parsley, chopped

250g ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced

500ml beef stock

500ml water

2 strips orange peel

20 black olives

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 220C.
  • Toss the onion and celery with a little of the olive oil in a roasting pan, then roast for 20 minutes until caramelised. Dry roast the walnuts on a baking tray in the oven for 6 minutes, then rub their skins off with a clean tea towel and set aside.
  • Toss the meat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, shaking off the excess.
  • In a heavy-based frying pan, brown the oxtail in batches in the remaining olive oil and the butter over high heat. Transfer each batch to a large heavy-based casserole.
  • Deglaze the frying pan with the wine, scraping to release all the caramelised bits from browning. Add the garlic, onions, celery, herbs and tomatoes to the frying pan and reduce the wine a little over high heat, then tip everything into the casserole. Add the beef stock and the water, making sure that everything is immersed, and simmer over low heat, covered, until tender – this could take 3 to 4 hours.
  • Add the orange rind and olives in the last 20 minutes of cooking.
  • Strain the cooking juices from the meat and skim as much fat as possible from the top. Set the meat aside in a warm place.
  • In a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, combine the Red Wine Vinegar and sugar and boil until the vinegar has evaporated and the sugar has caramelised.
  • Reduce the cooking juices to a syrupy consistency, and then add the caramelised vinegar mixture to taste.
  • Toss the cooked oxtail with the walnuts and pour the sauce back over the oxtail.
Ox tail
Ox tail
Dust it in flour and fry it up
Dust it in flour and fry it up
Add the tomatoes, wine, stock and water
Add the tomatoes, wine, stock and water
After three hours in the oven
After three hours in the oven
Strain the sauce
Strain the sauce
Reduce the sauce
Reduce the sauce
Combine it all
Put it on  a plate and eat it. I guarantee this will be heaps tidier than pouring it straight onto the table
Put it on a plate and eat it. I guarantee this method of consumption will be heaps tidier than pouring it straight onto the table

Maggie suggests serving with mashed potato, creamy polenta or pasta, but I went renegade and served it with a few boiled chat potatoes and salsa verde. Mental, I know.

It was damn fine. I needed to reassure Obi (youngest son) that even though it was the tail of the cow it wouldn’t have any poo on it and in no way, shape or form would we be consuming poo for our dinner any time soon. Seba (oldest son) loved it so much he came back for seconds without a second thought about the tail and its proximity to the poo hole. Jennee declared that it was a damn fine cook up. With the family happy I proceeded to nod off on the couch, not unlike the heroin junkie after his daily hit.

So I tip my hat to you Maggie Beer. You and your ox tail with orange, olives and walnuts…