The best part of a meal for me is often not the main component but rather the accompanying sides and sauces, the toppings, the spreads, the dressings, the flavour bombs – the things that surprisingly a lot of people forget about. Many a time I have had under-seasoned food, a salad without dressing, meat without a sauce or a dry sandwich without mayo; well I say enough is enough!… it’s time for us to make a stand!… time to change the world!… make it better for the future generations!… Who is with me? Ehem, sorry I got a bit carried away, I really do like my condiments.
With a fervent passion for so many condiments it is not surprising that I may keep one or two around to spice things up. Mrs. Foodie and I had been noticing and attempting to ignore, a growing smell coming from the fridge… so were forced to do a clean out. This involves moving all of the contents into our spare (booze) fridge and chilly bin so the fridge could defrost. Whilst Mrs. Foodie did the wash down, I clambered around to see if I could find where the stench was coming from, a dead animal perhaps? Maybe a cabbage that had lost the will to live? Or the least preferred scenario was that one of my precious condiments had turned against me!
After this whole ordeal I’m pretty sure that the smell was just a blocked defrost drain hole. However it gave me a chance to sift through the ingredients clogging up the fridge, disposing of some whilst reminiscing with the long forgotten ones hiding behind the butter conditioner.
As a child I grew up with the usual basic condiments such as mayonnaise, mustard, tomato sauce and the occasional chutney that my granny had preserved. For me the treat of school lunches was the day I got to have luncheon or even better – salami with a slathering of Cerebos Tomato relish, in all of its tomatoey oniony, sugary glory. Good for meats and cheeses, rolls, sandwiches and burgers. Also good is its friend Piccalilli for corned beef sammies… oh yeah!
While we are on the subject of pickles, an Indian work colleague gave me some homemade lime pickle – fresh lime, chilli, fenugreek and a ton of salt… intense but really good. If I ever decide to make a full Indian banquet it’ll be one of my sides. As it stands I just have the occasional nibble at it as a snack, so whenever Mrs. Foodie tells me to throw it out I can tell her that I’m still using it.
If there’s one condiment you can guarantee is in everyone’s pantry, it’s good ol’ tomato sauce. I’m talking classic Watties for a saussie in bread; maybe a hickory smoked steak sauce for a piece of rump. It’s a key component in good ribs, makes a nice addition to a pizza sauce, I even had some on a Jersey caramel once – but that was a dare because I said it went with everything. Right now I have a collection of Tuimato (which has a whispering of Tui beer in it), Glasseye creek (smokey, treacley fruit flavours awesome on steak or add bourbon whiskey to baste ribs with) and Bacon Jam – yeah I know it’s not saucy but it is a bit tomatoey and has Bacon in it so it gets a mention just cause Bacon is awesome!
As I said in “Who are you calling a jerky?”,the SAFs can throw down a mean braai. It’s no wonder I have claimed to be an honorary South African in order to get my hands on their barbecue secrets. No. 1 rule is if you have the time, cook with charcoal – ‘slow and steady wins the race’ as they say, Rule No. 2 always have a supply of fresh cold beer (duh obviously) which as well as refreshing the ‘tongmaster’ can be used to marinade or put out unwanted flare-ups. Rule no. 3 is to have the following two condiments: Braai salt, which adds salt and spice to the meat as it cooks and Mrs. Balls Chutney, put it on everything from rice to a metre long boerewors sausage! Special mention goes to Aromat, a maize based seasoning packed full of MSG and other flavour enhancing goodies… I don’t have it… should put it on the shopping list though…
Asian food is a big part of the New Zealand melting pot of cultures now, with pretty much every cuisine you could imagine being readily available – Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Korean, the list goes on. Many Asian condiments have become commonplace and a quick and easy way to zhuzh up any meal – soy sauce and sesame oil in a stir-fry, wasabi, pickled ginger and Japanese mayo on anything Japanese, sweet chilli sauce on everything. A few new ones that I think are pretty badass include; Sesame dressing –recommended for fish or salads and Sambal oeleck, an Indonesian salty vinegary chilli paste, put it on nasi goreng or anything needing a relatively mild chilli condiment.
Now If you want more than a mild kick of heat, you need to have a few chilli sauces in your arsenal. Tabasco or Crystal chilli sauces are the norm but I advise that you seek out some of the smaller players, who focus on flavour as well as heat. I’m really getting into chilli at the moment so picked up a couple from Culley’s; local guys whose flavoursome sauces range from mild to a 5 chilli ++ Carolina Reaper chilli infused beast! I add a few drops to everything I eat now… Interesting fact, the Carolina Reaper is the current holder of the Guinness World Record for Hottest chilli, with some peaking at over 2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units! (SHU is how chilli heat is measured). In comparison at the other end of the scale the well-known Jalapeño chilli weighs in at a measly 2500 – 10,000 SHU.
The British have passed down a number of unforgettable dishes through the generations and as a typical Kiwi mongrel with an English-Irish heritage I have had my fair share of the roast lamb with mint sauce combo or corned beef with a dollop of mustard. HP sauce is also distinctively British, the most popular ‘brown sauce’ for whacking on your cooked breakfast or chip butty. It is effectively a tomato sauce with Worcestershire sauce added to it and not surprisingly tasted almost as awesome as Worcestershire sauce itself. My guilty pleasure – drinking straight from a bottle of Lea & Perrins’…. yeah you heard me right! In fact I have been known to just snack away on condiments, a sprinkle of this… a swig of that… have I disgusted you yet? I haven’t of course mentioned the big two and most popular condiments in the world – Salt & Pepper, which are mandatory in any kitchen! Nuff said.
After my very odd topic of ramblings, I thought I would leave you with the final condiment stocktake from the fridge cleanout:
- 9 x curry pastes
- Tamarind puree
- 7 x jams / sweet sauces
- 10 x chutney / relish
- Tasti Passionfruit Pulp (shameless plug)
- 8 x Salad dressings
- 9 x tomato / chilli sauces
- 3 x mustards
- Pickled capers, olives (kalamata and hojiblanca), sundried tomato, green peppercorns, onions, jalapenos
- Lemon & Lime Juice, fresh limes
- Miso paste (awesome savoury flavour hit and soup base)
- Garlic butter (half a tsp left… really want to just throw it out)
- 2 x Random unknown marinade / sauce / bacterial growth mediums
- 2 x Gherkins (they were significantly different not to combine jars)
- Wasabi, Japanese mayo, sesame dressing, pickled ginger.
A special mention goes out to the other random open containers of ingredients in the fridge clean-up – 3 x juices ‘cause one is not enough, wine, stock, pineapple pieces, 3 cheeses, portions of soup ready for lunch, 2 different baking yeasts probably out of date, super glue with a rubber glove glued to it, cheese and beer making supplies and random agar puddings from the Asian vege shop that Mrs Foodie wanted to try. Then I went to the pantry…. there are another 35+ condiments to go through in there… sigh.
If you have read this far then I take it you’re also a freak who loves condiments… I salute you!