I begin with about 15 fresh scotch bonnets from one of the Mexican stores on Hamilton, although most grocery stores also carry them. They are seasonal so I make sure to stock up when I do find them. The red ones tend not to be as hot.
I wash, de-stem, and half them carefully because I have to think of life after cooking, especially given our shared history (see previous post). Next, I drop the peppers into a food processor and clean the skin off three large ginger roots and add these as well. To this, I add 2 large tomatoes I have quartered, three large yellow onions, and 2 medium-sized purple onions, also quartered. Finally, I peel and half ten cloves of garlic. Sometimes when I want a bit more flavor, I’ll throw in about ten fingers of Serrano peppers. I pour in a quarter cup of water.
Then I start grinding. I grind on “Chop” until most of the ingredients are broken down. I pause and add about a tablespoon of coarse Sea salt and a couple cubes of Maggi (a version of bouillon cubes) to the mix. I “chop” for a about 2 more minutes and stop. The mix should look like salsa. The mix goes into a sauté pan and onto a medium-high flame. The mix should bubble in the pan for about 15-20 minutes to make sure all the excess liquid is dried off. (Often, the tomatoes deposit way too much water in the mix, which is why there are so few of them). Once this is done, I do a taste and “fire” test.
It should smell sweet with slight hints of the ginger and a whiff of the garlic. Of course no two pots I make are alike but the general idea is that, it wakes up your sinuses. There must be enough salt so it brings out the flavors of all the ingredients. It must not be so hot that I cannot feel my tongue. If the heat level is too high, I add about 2-4 table spoonfuls of tomato paste to the mix while it’s still on the fire. When I’m satisfied, I pour in a quarter cup of olive oil and stir slowly as the mixture absorbs the oil. I lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes stirring every so often. If I want a loose consistency for a sauce, I remove the pan from the fire at this point. If I want a paste texture, I let the sauce simmer for about another 15 minutes. When the mixture has reached the appropriate consistency, I let it cool for about an hour before bottling it for delivery with my signature warning label: “Not for the faint of heart!” For the faint of heart who want to experiment, I always recommend a dollop of ketchup.
Now tell me you are not itching to taste this divine sauce. They say curiosity killed the cat. I like to think that this only happened because the cat waited too long so the intensity of the experience was too overwhelming. This is why Asempe Kitchen is the “culinary adventure for the curious.” Until next time!