If you like olives and wished it could be spiced up to taste more exciting, this fresh tasting sauce is the one to try. It is a mix of tomatoes, red bell peppers, fresh chillies with a touch of spices. It works well in complementing salty savoury olives.

Whilst holidaying at the picturesque island of Santorini, we ensconced ourselves at the Grace Santorini’s, ‘The Villa’.

Screen shot of ‘The Villa’ taken from Grace Santorini’s website. Stay here and everything you see, the pool, extended balcony with more loungers plus even more pampering facilities are for your exclusive use. Coupled with an amazing crew who will bend over backwards to take  care of every need, you won’t want to leave.

We had our own wait staff, the most capable Christina. So eager was she to attend to us, she refused to let us even refill our own wine glasses. And, if you ever motioned towards the villa’s own kitchen, she would say in earnest, “Please, I am here to serve you. Tell me what you need.” She is endearing. One evening, while we were all seated down for dinner and having animated conversations amongst ourselves, everyone of us suddenly fell silent. Our eyes had caught sight of a fiery red chilli sauce that was dressed over black olives. Christina was about to set it on the table. We all knew it was going to be good. You have to understand, everyone at the table loves food and we know good food when we see it.

Grace Santorini’s black olives dressed with their fantastic Greek style harissa.

This hot chilli pepper dressing had an almost loose viscosity. The texture was between a sauce and a dressing. The flavours were fresh. It was not over spiced and the heat level was just right for the olives. I could taste tomatoes and there was some underlying herbs which I could not make out then. The chef was summoned and quizzed. Unfortunately, I could not understand him. He said it was like harissa. I was able to gather that there were tomatoes, red peppers, chillies, coriander and that’s all I understood.

Grace Santorini’s breads are filled with the most unusual mix of grains and cereals. Not only are they always flavourful, they are invariably soft and delicate. I particularly like the ‘black bread’ although I haven’t a clue what it is made from. I am waiting for Chef Spyros to tell me the secret! Update: I have since recreated a Black Bread that is very similar. Recipe here, Black Bread.

The recipe below comes very close to what we enjoyed that evening. As it has a dip kind of consistency, I can think of multiple uses for it. Over grilled fish for instance and perhaps some linguine in tiny, tiny portions to be enjoyed cold as a started. This is the first in a series of 10 meze recipes that were inspired by my recent holiday in Greece. Click here Greek Meze, Another Selection Of Wonderful Little Bites. For easy reference, scroll down below and you will find the table spread of all 10 meze and their respective links to recipe posts.

Greek Inspired Harissa-style Hot Sauce To Go With Olives

Prep: ~15 minutes 
Cook: ~10 minutes
Level: Easy
Makes: ~3/4 cup
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Keeps well up to 5 days, refrigerated.


~ 2 medium size (14.10oz)(400g) ripest tomatoes
1.5″ strip of (0.98oz)(28g) red bell pepper
~ 3 fresh (0.98oz)(28g) red chillies
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon coriander powder*
Pinch of cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 +1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 +1/8 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
* Scroll down to ‘Tips’ for suggestions to use up coriander powder.


1. Get a kettle of water boiling. Score the bottom of the tomatoes with an “X”.
2. Place the tomatoes, the strip of red pepper, chillies and peeled garlic in a deep bowl. Pour boiling water over them to cover.
3. After 5 minutes, drain off the water. Peel and discard the tomato skins and cut tomatoes into chunks. Dice up the red pepper.
4. Either leave the chillies whole if you want your sauce to be on the spicy side or cut and remove the seeds for a milder tasting sauce.
5. Puree the tomatoes, red pepper, chillies and garlic and decant into a pot for frying.
6. Place the pot over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring on occasions to prevent the sauce from burning.
7. Stir in the salt, sugar, coriander and cinnamon powder and reduce the sauce until most of the liquid has evaporated. It should look similar to the sauce below. It takes me about 10 minutes.

8. Taste and adjust seasoning. Now, add the white wine vinegar and taste again. You may need more or less vinegar depending on how sour or sweet the tomatoes are. The sauce should be fresh tasting. It should be sufficiently spicy hot, more sour than sweet and you should not be able to taste the garlic, coriander or cinnamon powder. The star of this harissa-like sauce are the tomatoes, chillies and red pepper.
9. To serve, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, on your serving vessel. Add a little of the harissa-like sauce, place the olives on it and drizzle with a little more sauce. Watch your guests’ eyes widened with interest as you serve this to them.


Here are 2 recipes that you could try out to help use up the bottle of coriander powder

(1) Beef Kafta – Lebanese Meatballs
Tired of dry and hard meat balls? Try my recipe for these well flavoured, soft and moist meatballs.

(2) Crispy Gluten, Dairy and Egg Free Corn Fritters
If like fresh corn but I like these crispy corn fritters better. See those whole nuggets of corn? Once you bite into the fritters, those corn nuggets taste like little burst of creamy sugar!


Tomato Balls! These are very popular in Santorini, Greece where the tomatoes grown are famous for being small, thick skinned and sweet.

Here is the spread of the rest of the Greek Meze.


First row. Left to right:
Slow Cooked Octopus In A Sherry Vinegar Garlic Marinade,
Moussaka – Baked Casserole Of Eggplants, Tomatoey Meat Topped With A Creamy White Sauce,
Santorini Fava A Delicious Yellow Split Peas Dip,
Grilled & Marinated Peppers With Fig Balsamic Cream
Second row. Left to right:
Greek Inspired Harissa-Style Hot Chilli Sauce To Go With Olives,
5 Minutes Grilled Cheese Meze,
Santorini Tomatoey Tomato Balls/Fritters
Third row. Left to right:
Crispy Whitebait And Sweet Onions Disk,
Pork Souvlaki Kebabs Skewers,
Tzatziki A Cucumber Yogurt DipOh So Soft Pita Bread 

Last October, I had a similar feature on meze. Those meze were inspired by the regional cuisines of North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, that post is filed under, Meze, A Selection Of Wonderful Little Bites. The recipes for my meze are often easy and can be made ahead. Great if you are planning to feed many people at your next dinner.