When Tom Sarafian picks up the phone for our chat, he’s grilling red chillies and bullhorn peppers over charcoal. It’s a three-hour process – and only one step of many to make his latest product.

Sarafian’s harissa is the third member of the ex-Bar Saracen head chef’s growing dip range, which launched with his cult-favourite hummus – that Lee Ho Fook’s Victor Liong call “the Tom Ford of dips” – and expanded to include a garlicky, almost cloud-like toum.

The new harissa is “like a smoky, spice-centred chilli sauce”, says Sarafian. “It’s quite versatile – different to some harissas that are more like a paste and designed to be used in cooking and marinating. My harissa is more of a ready-to-go condiment with the same flavours and characteristics.”

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First, he chars locally grown, fresh red chillies and bullhorn peppers on the grill until they’re black and smoky. They’re then peeled, de-seeded and marinated overnight with salt and olive oil. The next day Sarafian simmers them low and slow with cumin, coriander seeds and sun-dried maras peppers from Turkey.

Once the peppers are soft, he blitzes everything together and passes it through a sieve to catch any stray seeds. The last step is to mix through some smoked paprika, Mount Zero pink salt, a splash of vinegar and toum – the one he sells. The process takes three days in total.

“It’s definitely a labour of love,” he says. And all that work shines through when you take your first bite. “It tastes pretty spicy – not blow-your-head-off spicy, but it definitely has a good chilli kick – and the smoke from cooking the peppers over charcoal really comes through. I think it has a really beautiful fresh, fruity sort of flavour from the fresh ingredients and really good quality produce we’re using.”

He suggests having it with charcoal-roasted lamb and vegetables, or anything fried – like potatoes, chicken or eggplant. He’s also used the harissa as salad dressing, a condiment for cold seafood, a sandwich spread and for giving an extra kick to your breakfast eggs. “Anywhere you’d use a really good chilli sauce, or just to spice up dinner a little bit,” he adds.

It’s only available while chillies are in season, which he reckons will be another three or four months.

Sarafian Harissa will be available for $19 from Friday April 8 at Meatsmith, All Are Welcome and Baker Bleu. Stay up to date on stockists through Instagram.

sarafian.com.au