No matter what type of cuisine you’re cooking, chances are they’re going to have some foundational aromatic base- whether it’s called a sofrito, mirepoix, or a curry paste- for a lot of their dishes. Chakalaka is a south African dish that’s used as a condiment or relish, and its story begins with olive oil and onions. While all of the other flavors are built on this foundation, it’s not imperative to be able to recognize big, large chunks in your relish… actually, the smaller the better for this particular case so the flavor can distribute more. As the onions start to sweat and become translucent, the sharp flavors mellow out and become sweeter. In addition to onion, we added a de-seeded and deveined jalapeno for a much less intense heat, but if you’re a fan of spicier food you could mince the whole chile. To round out our aromatic trio you’ll see that we only incorporated half of our ginger, and that’s on purpose. Meant to help build out our aromatic base, as it cooks it will be less pungent and have less of that ZING than it’s raw counterpart.
We developed a special blend specifically for Chakalaka that helps to complement and enhance all its other ingredients. Basically a curry powder, Chakalaka Seasoning has an earthy and spicy flavor that is aromatic and has a lot of depth. Its warmth comes from Birdseye Chile Powder and cumin, with some herbaceous flavors from the thyme, fennel, and organic curry leaves. These spices give great contrast to the sweetness that the vegetables we are using have, and ties together all the different components. Our Chakalaka blend is salt free, so you can season according to your taste, and if you wanted to add even more heat you could definitely add more birdseye chile powder (or any other chile powder that you have).
We used three different sweet bell peppers to basically just add a whole bunch of color to our dish, but if you were less concerned by the aesthetics/didn’t have as many options Chef Jeff recommends going for a red kind, which tends to be slightly sweeter. Most of the base of our relish comes from shredded carrots, which we cleaned and peeled before grating in a food processer. If you don’t have a food processor you could get the same results from a box grater, just be careful grating too close to your fingers. Shredded carrots will cook faster, so you want to make sure you stir frequently so they are done evenly. After the carrots are mixed in, we used two types of tomatoes to add different levels of flavor: Like our ginger, Jeff wanted to make conscious choices with different mediums and cooking times to shine a light on the beauty of ingredient evolution. Fresh chopped tomatoes are brighter, while tomato paste is richer and has more intensity… either one is good, but both are better. Be shameless. Showcase the full spectrum.
Our taste testers were introduced to Chakalaka with their choice of grilled sausages or grilled polenta, and loved the way it added great contrast to smokier flavors.
- 3 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Onion, minced
- 2 Serrano or Jalapeno, minced
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 oz. Ginger root, grated and divided
- 2 Tbsp Chakalaka Seasoning
- 1 Green pepper, diced fine
- 1 Red pepper, diced fine
- 1 Yellow pepper, diced fine
- 5 Large carrots, grated
- 14 oz Fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
- 2 Tbsp Tomato paste
- 14 oz. Can of Cannellini beans
- 1 Tbsp Granulated Molasses
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- In a skillet, heat 3 Tbsp Olive oil to medium-high. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add chiles, garlic, half of the ginger and Chakalaka Seasoning and stir well. Add peppers and cook 2 minutes. Add carrots, tomatoes, and tomato paste and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add granulated molasses to beans and mix well. Set aside.
- Remove from heat, stir in ginger and beans and serve.