So as we round out Condiment Week, I was trying to decide what today’s final recipe should be. We did the classics of mayo, mustard, ketchup and relish…. but what would be a good final note? So I thought to myself, what do you see on tables at restaurants? I know! Hot sauce! But no one is really going to make their own Tabasco or Texas Pete sauce at home (well, some people will, but most of us won’t).
But then I remembered one of my mom’s favourites! Amba! A slightly pickled, slightly spicy, savoury mango sauce that she just loves on her laffa! And of course, when you’re ordering up your laffa, you can always ask for it to be cha’reef (hot in Hebrew), which means the addition of Zhug, a spicy herb paste that really kicks it up a notch. So for today, we get two recipes, Amba and Zhug. Remember, you can always adjust the heat level by adding more or less chilies to the recipes. Enjoy and MAKE SURE TO WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE TOUCHING YOUR EYES!
Zhug – Israeli/Yemeni Hot Sauce
Makes about 1 ¼ cup
10 to 14 fresh green chilies or jalapeños, seeded if you like and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 to 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
½ teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro*
½ cup packed parsley leaves*
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
* Click here to learn how to clean cilantro and parsley.
Place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse several times, until you get a smooth paste. You will have to scrape down all the bits and pieces that stick to the sides of the bowl.
Pack in a jar and store in the refrigerator. Zhug will keep for one to two weeks. You can also freeze it, but it will lose some of its garlicky flavor.
Amba – Spicy/Savoury Israeli Condiment
Makes about 1 one-cup
2 ½ green mangoes
1 ¼ tablespoons salt
½ tablespoon corn oil
2 ½ tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seed (whole, not ground)
1 tablespoon dried red pepper (about 2 ½ tiny ones, or more to taste)
½ tablespoon ground fenugreek
1 tablespoon hot paprika
½ tablespoon turmeric
½ head garlic, peeled and finely chopped (HEAD, not cloves)
¼ cup corn oil (more or less, for finishing)
Wash the mangoes well and cut them up (including the peel) into slices the size of your pinky finger. Coat with the 1 ¼ tablespoons of salt, and place the slices into a large jar. Close the jar and shake it to evenly distribute the salt. Place the jar in a sunny spot for 4 to 5 days to release all the liquid in the fruit. At the end of this time the mangoes should be a very light, yellow colour.
Drain the mangoes, but make sure to save the liquid. Allow the mango slices to dry, preferably in the sun, for 3 to 4 hours. Heat the ½ tablespoon of corn oil in a pot, and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppers, fenugreek, paprika and turmeric. Cook and constantly stir for a few seconds, until the spices begin to pop and make tiny explosive noises.
In a separate small pot, boil the saved mango liquid and then add it to the heated spice mixture. Add the mango pieces and the chopped garlic. Stir, and continue cooking for 5 minutes on a low flame. Make sure the mixture does not dry out too much. Remove from the flame and let cool completely. At this point you can leave it chunky, or use a blender to purée it smooth.
Pour the mixture into a clean container with a lid and cover with the remaining corn oil, and then seal. The amba will keep in the fridge for at least six months.