Monday, October 4, 2010

Adventures in African Cooking: Nana's Lodge hot red pepper sauce

I know the last cooking post was about pepper sauce, but the kitchen at Nana's Lodge in Robertsport just showed me how to make their version, which is my favorite. If you're up for it, this bright red blend of onions, tomato paste and red peppers that can act more like a sauce for rice than a condiment. Again, a warning.

Nana's Lodge Red Pepper Sauce

1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
2 cups red hot peppers (the Liberian ones look like Scotch bonnets but aren't quite as hot--experiment at will)
a spoonful of seasoning salt (the kind without MSG), but just salt and pepper will do
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water

Before you start cooking, open the windows and have tissues around to cough into. Cooking a pan full of hot peppers releases some noxious fumes, so maybe an escape route from the kitchen is also a good idea.

Wash the peppers and remove their stems. Then put them in a mortar and pestle and mash them until the skins start to break up. Add the sliced onions and keep mashing until everything is a mushy paste of skin, pepper flesh and seeds. Be ready with a big spoon to scrape it into the pan and under no circumstances let the peppers touch your skin.

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. It will start to shimmer and, before it gets too hot, add the tomato sauce and stir to incorporate. At this point, if there's leftover oil that doesn't want to blend with the tomato paste, you can spoon or pour some off. Keep in mind, though, that oil is the preservative in pepper sauce. The more oil that's in the sauce, the longer it will keep.

Next, spoon in the hot pepper and onion mixture. Mix until uniform and then add the water. Stir pretty constantly for about 5 minutes or until the peppers are cooked. Add seasoning salt to taste. Remove from the heat and cool before serving, ideally in a small bowl with a spoon, next to the rice. This will keep in the fridge for weeks and at room temperature for about a week.

Enjoy!

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