I am a chilli wuss. For someone of Indian descent, this can be quite embarrassing. People are constantly surprised by my inability to tolerate chilli heat and even my mum has to tone down the heat a little when cooking for me. And North Indian cuisine isn’t that hot to begin with!
It’s not that I don’t like chillies at all – the wide variety of flavours can be wonderful. But anything too hot burns my taste buds and lips so badly that not only am I in genuine pain but I’m also quite unable to taste any of the other flavours of the dish in question.
So I’ve been left pretty cold by the current craze for extremely hot sauces.
I do use chillies in my own cooking, where I can carefully control the heat levels, and have enjoyed experimenting with dried Mexican dried chillies.
But ready-made hot sauces? I’ve steered clear of those!
I met Grant Hawthorne, highly talented and experienced master chef, when he lead the enormous brigade of chefs for the Kai We Care charity dinner last year. Grant hails from Cape Town but has been living and working in the UK for 12 years. He’s one of those people you can’t help but warm to – hugely knowledgeable and talented yet quiet, thoughtful and unassuming in mannerism, with a genuine warmth and concern for others that is heart warming.
Grant has recently developed and launched a brand new product, his African Volcano Peri Peri sauces and marinades.
Peri Peri (also known as piri piri and pili pili) is a marinade and seasoning sauce of Portuguese origin and is particularly popular in parts of Southern Africa (presumably as a result of the culinary diaspora that occurred during the centuries of European empires). It’s usually made from chillies, onion, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a mix of spices and herbs.
Grant’s version uses a variety of chillies including Scotch Bonnet and Dorset Naga. All are sourced from Edible Ornamentals in Bedfordshire. The good news for me is that Grant, like me, is not a fan of extreme chilli heat. So he’s developed his peri peri products to give flavour first, which lingers pleasantly in the mouth, and then a gentle heat that warms rather than burns the mouth.
Since South African chain Nando’s opened in the UK, in the mid ’90s, peri peri chicken has become far better known here than it used to be. What you may not know is that Nando’s originated within the Mozambiquan Portuguese community in South Africa, as Mozambique was part of Portugal’s East African empire.
Grant originally learned how to make a great peri peri from a Mozambique-born woman who fled the revolution in Mozambique and settled in Cape Town. Since then, he’s modified the recipe gradually over the years, resulting in today’s African Volcano.
The sauce (which is a cooked version of the marinade) we use on its own straight out of the bottle and, as long as I don’t dip too generously, the level of heat is just within my comfort zone. Good with nachos or home made chips.
The marinade does just what a good marinade should do – imbues the meat with wonderful, deeply delicious flavours.
Note: don’t worry if the oil separates from the rest of the ingredients a little during storage. This is a natural product and a vigorous shake will emulsify the oil back into the rest of the sauce very quickly.
As Pete can tolerate more heat than I, we use the African Volcano marinade neat on his preferred chicken breast fillets. For me, I mix it with either full fat natural yoghurt or crème fraiche and liberally coat my preferred chicken thighs.
Both are either grilled or baked in a hot oven.
This time, I doubled up portions, so we could enjoy the rest with a salad the next day.
You could grill or barbeque the meat, but so far, we’ve baked it in the oven, which has worked very well. The meat remains incredibly moist (even the breast fillet, which is a dryer cut) and the flavours are just wonderful.
Please don’t think I’m recommending African Volcano to you because Grant has become a personal friend over the last year. He has, but, as he and other friends know very well, I’m always honest about what I like and don’t like, and that’s probably even more so when it comes to products and services offered by friends and family rather than by strangers.
If I didn’t genuinely love African Volcano Peri Peri, I would not be suggesting you buy some for yourself. And in case it’s not clear, I am!
And if that weren’t reason enough already, Grant is donating 30 pence from every bottle sold to support the work of Habitat for Humanity, a South African charity that encourages those with money and skills to work alongside members of South Africa’s poorest communities, providing capital and co-workers in building affordable housing.
To buy your own African Volcano Peri Peri, either visit Grant at his stall in Maltby Street Market on Saturdays, or purchase from one of his retail stockists. You can also drop him an email via his website, to organise mail order.