Friday, March 10, 2017

Piri Piri Sauce

This weekend marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, which (for most of us) also translates into a few days of total disorientation as the clocks move forward and we lose an hour of sleep. Luckily for the kids (and us teachers), the shift happens over March Break - so while it's irritating to wake up an hour later than you wanted to, we're not sabotaging our work cycles too much. 

That said, when I need to wake up my brain - whether it be first thing in the morning or before pulling an all-nighter of marking, writing or lesson planning - my tried and true remedy has always been something spicy. Nothing sets your neurons firing like a dollop of wasabi or searing hot pepper sauce mixed with rice or grains, and last year (with a garden and a half overflowing with hot chilies), I got to try my hand at making and tasting a handful of variations. One that was first on my list was piri piri sauce - essentially a Portuguese twist on Tabasco, made with layers of flavour - chilies, garlic herbs and lemon all feature heavily. My dad had turned me onto the bottled stuff after mentioning his experience with it during workplace lunches, and after consulting a few blogs and my copy of The Chile Pepper Bible, I set to work with the myriad of peppers and herbs I had stashed in my freezer.

Piri Piri Sauce

Now, when people make "authentic" piri piri, they often add fish sauce for the salty, pungent flavour. However, to keep things vegan (and avoid it going wonky in the fridge or freezer) I used fish mint instead, which provides the flavour without the animal products. I also used some lemon balm for an extra burst of citrus. After letting the mixture infuse and mellow a few days in the fridge, I made my mom a grilled turkey burger with a spoonful mixed into the meat as a tester - it almost, but not quite, blew her head off spice wise! Luckily, this condiment is often diluted a bit and used more as a marinade than anything else, so when used as intended it just adds a nice low burn than a dynamite explosion in your throat.

Piri Piri Sauce 
Makes ~1 cup, 16 servings
14 red chilies (fresh or dried - soak dried ones in water for 2 hours, then drain), chopped - I used a mix of finger chilies and habaneros and left the seeds in
10 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup lemon balm
¼ cup minced fish mint (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp white vinegar
⅓ cup olive oil (nothing too flavourful)
1 tsp sea salt
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Transfer to a jar and freeze or store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 56.6
Total Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 149.4 mg
Total Carbs: 4.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 0.9 g

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