My name is Symonds and I am addicted to chilli sauce. On eggs, on pizza, with chicken, slurped off my fingers during a late night prowl of the fridge. I can't get enough of the stuff.
That said, I am rather fussy about the exact type of chilli sauce and certainly do not believe that all chilli sauces are created equal. Without getting all Goldilocks, it needs to be: tongue-throbbingly spicy but with flavours that are more complex than an unremitting chilli blast; sweet without being sickly or syrupy; sour without a stringent vinegary aftertaste; and thick enough to stay on anything it is slathered on but liquid enough to distribute. I had previously settled for a quick spray of cholula on my eggs, until my trip to Zanzibar and my chilli sauce epiphany.
On a beach on the remote east coast of Zanzibar, we were tucking into some rather spectacularly fresh fish when we were offered out from under the bar the traditional Zanzibar accompaniment. A fresh chilli sauce whipped up by the chef-barman. Now, I should add here that I don't normally recommend trying random liquids from an old water bottle given to you on the beach by a rasta-chap. But this stuff was absolutely divine. Fearsomely spicy with a tonne of flavour and a satisfyingly chunky texture. The secret ingredient? Mango. The bartender said he whizzed one up with the chilli in lieu of any sugar and to temper the heat.
Fast forward back to the UK and, nostalgic for my holiday, I whipped up a batch myself. Chillies, a bit of mint and parsley, a couple of cloves of garlic and a big juicy mango. My tweak to the recipe was to use apple cider vinegar to enhance the fruitiness. I am not sure apple cider vinegar is big in rural Zanzibar. And gosh it was good. So good in fact that I managed to consume two whole bottles in about three weeks. That is some going, even for a chilli sauce lover. I went for a repeat this week, but this time added a pomegranate which definitely adds to the flavour if giving it a slightly sinister bloody-purple hue.
Two secret ingredients... mango and apple cider vinegar. Not a recipe exactly, but my concoction this time involved 30 red chillies, 5 cloves of garlic, 3 mangoes, a small bunch of parsley, one pomegranate, two bay leaves and about 250ml of apple cider vinegar. I don't necessarily advise making it in these quantities as I did end up with around six jars of the stuff. Not complaining but perhaps cut quantities by a third to make less industrial quantities. I am a heathen so I bung the chillies in whole and zap in the processor and then consumer the end product as is without sieving. It has a slightly chunky texture - the only word I can think of is slurry-like which, although perhaps apt, is not exactly appetising - with the seeds and pips not really noticeable. Removing the seeds might be an idea if you are less of a chilli fiend, or you could sieve if you have the time and the bother to do this.
We had agreed to meet the barman the next morning near our hotel to take possession of a couple of bottles of the chilli sauce for our onward journey. It was never to be, either he didn't show, we weren't in the right place... either way we left empty handed. Possibly my biggest regret. Until now. The recipe is mine.