Bicep-building chermoula paste

In honour of minimalist living and all that shiz, and in the absence of my beloved food processor, today’s recipe is chermoula paste. It’s nice sometimes to be reminded that before the introduction of labour-saving devices, people did still enjoy curry pastes, pestos and hummus. People also weren’t obese. If you use a mortar and pestle as I did, it will quickly become apparent why. You may end up stripping down to a bra and pj pants, so don’t do this with guests over. Unless you’re having that type of party.

A fragrant North African blend of fresh herbs and toasted spices, chermoula can be the magic ingredient in burritos, marinades, sauces, dressings, dips, etc etc etc. Here it’s going to be used in Vegiehead’s Afghani Munto (spinach and rice filled dumplings). We’re having friends over for dinner on Friday, so with the prepared filling we’ll make up the dumplings and then steam them for dinner. A dumpling-making dinner party!

Chermoula paste (makes about 1 cup of paste)

I didn’t add salt or pepper to the paste – I figure if I leave it out I can taste what I’m cooking and season accordingly. I think that’s better than trying to guess how much seasoning a dish needs before tasting it.


  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 brown onion, halved, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small fresh red chillies, deseeded, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh continental parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Toast the cumin seeds, coriander, paprika and turmeric in a small skillet until they smell fantastic.
  2. Grind spices in a mortar and pestle with the onion (I added half of the onion, ground it to a paste, then the other half. This is the part that will wear you out). Scoop out into a bowl.
  3. Grind the garlic and chillis into a paste. Remove and add to the spice mix.
  4. Grind the fresh herbs until they also form a paste.
  5. Add herb paste to the bowl of spice mix, add the lemon juice and cayenne and stir it all together. Either keep, sealed, in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a bit longer (not sure how long it’ll keep in there, but I’ll be using it up before I find out).

Otherwise you could use a food processor, processing everything together after step 1. Just don’t serve yourself too much for dinner.


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