Hairy Bittercress Harissa Paste

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HAIRY BITTERCRESS – Cardamine hirsuta offers a hot peppery cress flavour.

Traditionally the leaves have been cooked like spinach, but I find they taste a deep rich cress flavour. A Goddess to the forager, a curse to the gardener.

How strange to dig up a friendly invasive who grows in huge abundance for you, only to be weeded out, discarded and replaced with a less nutrient dense and bland tasting ‘monoculture’ vegetable.


  • 1 red pepper (baked with skin removed)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp聽 cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 red onion (chopped finely)
  • 5 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
  • 1 red chilli (finely chopped)
  • 3 dry birdeye chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 40g raw hairy bittercress (chopped)
  • pinch of salt

Suggested Instructions

  1. Lightly toast the cumin, caraway and coriander seeds in a frying pan until the seeds begin to pop, then immediately remove them from the heat and put into a pestle and mortar. Grind into a powder.
  2. Fry the red onion in butter until semi-translucent along with the chillies, then add the chopped garlic. Cook until the onion and garlic are nice and soft, then remove from heat.
  3. Put the onion, chilli and garlic mix into a bowl along with all the other ingredients, and using a hand blender, blitz to a chunky/smooth texture.

Serving Ideas

Smear lashings of this wild Harissa recipe over plump white fish fillets. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge. Allow to marinate for at minimum 2 hours and preferably 4 hours. Heat some butter/oil in a frying pan, and fry each fillet for about 2 mins each side, depending on the size of the fillets.


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  1. You don鈥檛 mention when to add the bittercress in your method. Perhaps an oversight? Would be happy to proofread for you in exchange for access to your foraging notes. (Teaching assistant wages-limited budget)
    Nicki Jones


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