where it all began
My love of chillies was born as a 9-year-old on holiday in Botswana. Most days we fished for bream off the banks of the mighty Chobe river & would bring our catch to the matriarch of an Indian family we befriended at the lodge. While my brother & sister played with her kids I was drawn to the smells & sounds of her cooking as she prepared delicious fish curries, pickled fish, & marinated fish for our braais (BBQs) for our families to share. Every meal she made was packed with spice & chilli & those weeks spent eating her food got me hooked.
Ever since then chillies have been a constant feature for me & I have tinkered with hot sauce recipes for decades.
I trained as a chef in a fine dining restaurant in Johannesburg & became a saucier - the chef that makes all the sauces, stocks, & dressings. This gave me a solid understanding of how to extract a particular flavour from ingredients, how to pair flavours & achieve textures & colours without using artificial additives.
FERMENTING: WHAT & WHY?
A few years ago, I discovered the world of fermentation & was blown away by the complexity of flavour that is achieved through such an ancient & relatively simple practice.
I also realised it was the key to a lifelong bugbear - the overuse of vinegar in hot sauces. I don’t dislike vinegar, there are always a few different bottles in the cupboard for different uses, but I find it overpowers the deep & subtle flavours of a chilli pepper. If you read the ingredients, you’ll see it is used heavily in almost every bottle of hot sauce on the planet.
The fermentation process I use is lacto-fermentation, so called because of the lactic acid-producing bacteria that drive it. These beneficial bacteria are present on & in all fruit & vegetables & they thrive in oxygen-free, salty environments. They eat the natural plant sugars & convert them into lactic acid, which is a natural preservative, more rounded & mellow than vinegar. It is made from the sugars of all the ingredients in the hot sauce & is therefore an integral part of the recipe, rather than an additional & separate ingredient as is the case with vinegar.
For too long, properly made, nutritionally dense foods have taken a back seat to cheaper, processed pulp churned out by factories. But now an explosion of research into the role our microbiome plays in boosting our immune system & even controlling our mood & behaviour means that naturally fermented veg are back in our daily diets.
WHO’S MUTI FOR?