Trinidadian Mango Habanero Pepper Sauce

With a collision of Indian and West African roots, Trinidadians are a peppery food liking people. When the Guinness Book of Records listed the world's hottest pepper as being from Trinidad & Tobago, we considered it a national badge of honour. For the typical Trini, a meal is not complete unless there is a some heat accompanying it. To ensure that this is so, we marinade and cook our dishes with fresh peppers (usually pimento, habanero or bird peppers). For those incidents when the finished meal still requires some heat, the person eating will add a whole pepper or pepper sauce to his/her plate. Even many of our 'snacks' are spicy hot. Our obsession with pepper is inculcated from childhood. As a rite of passage, adolescents gather to make and communally feast on a spicy fruit concoction called chow (made from mangoes, pineapples, guavas, pommerac, pommecytheres, cocoa and a plethora of whatever tropical fruit is in season). I remember as I child, my older brother giving me a piece of such fruit that had sat baking in the sun to intensify the spicy sting. As if that wasn't wicked enough, he had hidden a piece of pepper in the morsel. I not only ate it but returned for more, my tongue stinging with pain. I refused to let on that I could not handle the heat. When my brother gave me another piece, I felt proud of myself.

I've taken this obsession into adulthood. Like many other Trinis, I've been experimenting with creating my own pepper sauce recipes. Pepper sauces are a great option if you want a dash of heat in your meal but you want to be able to control the intensity.  Furthermore, they are extremely easy to make. In this post, I'm sharing a recipe for a mango habanero sauce. Please note that you can easily adjust the heat and sweetness of the sauce by adding or reducing the number of peppers and mangoes used. Let me know how yours turns out!

15 habanero peppers (use fewer peppers for a milder sauce)
3-4 large full to ripe mangoes (also use more mangoes if you 
   prefer a sweeter milder sauce)
2 kiwis (these were used to add some tartness w/out having to use 
             more lime or vinegar)
1 lime/lemon
3 cloves of garlic
6 stems of green onions
1 onion
1 bunch of chadon beni (also called culantro or oriental     
   cilantro)/about 10-12 leaves 
2 carrots
1 tbsp of salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
1 cup of distilled vinegar
1/4 cup of mustard powder
1/2 cup of water 

*Using gloves, roughly chop peppers, removing the stem/head.
*Remove some of the seeds if you want a very mild sauce. 
*Roughly chop flesh from the mangoes.
*Roughly chop kiwis, onions, carrots and scallion.
*Grate a wedge of lime to obtain lime/lemon zest.
*Place peppers, mango, garlic, carrots, chadon beni, green and 
  regular onions in blender. Place blender on pulse setting until 
  the ingredients are minced or finely chopped.
*Add salt, mustard pepper and lime/lemon zest to the blender.
*Place on pulse setting until the mixture is smoothly blended.
*Transfer the sauce to bottles and refrigerate. 

Be sure to keep your hands away from eyes during the process and wash your hands thoroughly after! 

Travel Diary: Ghana , A Retreat in Accra

Recently, I flew off to Ghana for a mini vacation. Although I didn't do everything on my agenda, the time there was enjoyable. I spent the days feasting on delicious, fresh tropical fruit; lying by the pool reading; hearing children play in the street, making beautiful new friendships and being blessed by the warmth of Ghanaian people. My visit to Ghana definitely helped me put things back into a more positive perspective. It also made me wonder if such a cheery vantage point is elusive unless we travel or is actually more sustainable than we may tend to think.

I do believe that sometimes it is necessary to change our environment in order to gain a fresh perspective. Routines have their benefits but they have their drawbacks as well.  Routines can convince us that things in our lives are stagnant - they prevent us from seeing the ways in which we are growing or illuminate a path to growth ; they may prevent us from seeing the blessings in our lives by fading those blessings into a landscape of mundane, seemingly meaningless things. When we have an opportunity to go somewhere new or at least slightly less familiar, it's as though our compass is reset. The lens seem clearer and more in focus. With this change of view comes excitement, a restored purpose and the ability to see the big picture as well as the details.  I suspect that this all occurs because when we travel, we are pulled from routine and all it entails: structure, predictability, monotony, security etc.

When we travel, we are compelled to find different ways of being, to reinvent ourselves, to connect with strangers, to confront useless beliefs, to learn new things and to take risks. There is only so much that guidebooks, maps and concierges can do. In fact, the best pieces of our travel experiences  often stem from the moments when we venture off the suggested path (literally and figuratively). Allowing our inner child to take charge, we give ourselves permission to explore, to rest and to indulge in things simply for the pleasure of the now.

We return feeling as though we have been infused with life. We express thanks for blessings that now seem so abundant. We vow to start new endeavours. We feel exuberant and we want that positivity to  last. So, can it? We may not always be able to escape to a so-called exotic place but we can have that energising positivity at home. Maybe we will not feel the giddiness of having trekked to Machu Pichu or swimming with dolphins each minute of every day. However, I believe that we can find ways to include elements that make vacations magical in our daily lives, especially since they need not be grandiose or expensive. 

*Explore a new part of your town or city spontaneously.
*Eat a dish or type of cuisine that you wouldn't ordinarily.
*Do something that seems ridiculously childish. PLAY!
*Devote time to relax (disconnected from technological gadgets).
*Engage in conversation with a stranger (preferably someone who
 seems quite different from you...and by conversation, I mean
 listen attentively to that person and share a bit of yourself).
*Learn a fun filled activity that you've dreamed of trying.
*Randomly smile with others.
*Indulge in self care (which doesn't even have to cost much).
*Do something touristy in your town/city/country.
*Keep a journal of these local adventures.
..............Be present in them all & Bring on the magic!

Photography:  DextDee Photography