Hot pepper sauce pork with mango and papaya relish

This is my latest ‘Market Larder’ column for Borough’s award winning Market Larder magazine, which is free to pick up if you’re in the area — loads of excellent recipes and articles. Do try to get your hands on a copy. 

I’m fond of the small glass condiment bottles that have a near-permanent place in my kitchen cupboards. There’s something strangely reassuring about these items lurking in the darker, stickier corners, at a height just beyond eye level — it’s a bit of a rummage every time I seek one, and rarely do I get the right bottle first time, but it’ll be there somewhere and will make its way to the counter top when required. Eventually.

No doubt our inventories are pretty similar, give or take a drop of one thing or another. I’m talking: a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, which is always between one third full and nearly empty, regardless of how recently I bought it; a couple of varieties of soy sauce; a sweet chilli sauce; some truffle oil; and then a number of different hot pepper sauces.

The latter category is vital. Not to everyone’s taste, I know. But once an enjoyment of the capsaicin compound that makes chilli peppers hot has been acquired, a dash becomes a regular necessity. It’s addictive: I splash hot pepper sauce on cheese on toast (both before and after the cheese goes under the grill); onto omelettes; over scrambled eggs and baked Portobello mushrooms; mixed into mayonnaise to pep things up a little; into soups and stews, particularly tomato based ones and especially if there’s black beans or tortillas involved. And I know others who employ it over many, many more things. The nutters.

Hot pepper sauces vary in character and colour depending on the chilli pepper, and where that sits on the Scoville scale of pungency. There’s the famous American one from Avery Island USA, made from the tabasco pepper, and a massive range of Mexican hot pepper sauces too, which might be made from habanero, chipotle, guajillo, arbol, or piquin chilli peppers (or a mix of them or others). Some chillies are grown and subsequently bottled in the UK, as new Market trader Wiltshire Chilli Farm will tell you. And punchy hot pepper sauces are a vital part of cuisine in the Caribbean islands. A few Trinidadian versions, for example, are conspicuous for employing maruga scorpion peppers – at 1,200,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) one of the very hottest around, and too much for this writer (for more context, tabasco peppers measure 2500-5000 SHUs, chipotle 1,500-2,500 SHUs). Others use scotch bonnets, which tend to measure between 80,000 – 400,000 SHUs so sure are hot, but they’re fruity too.

Though known for their Grenadian jams, jellies and spices, Green Market stalwarts de la Grenade have two hot pepper sauces which are both worth stopping to taste. There’s a yellow one, which is a common West Indian style — usually down to the use of onions, turmeric and mustard powder to temper the scotch bonnets, though de la Grenades is actually yellow through a piccalilli, which adds a delicious piquant sweetness and provides a soft impact. But I really like their Forte, which makes my lips throb and nose a little sweaty, without losing the taste of the peppers. Moreover, this is something that can be used as an ingredient as well as a condiment, as it makes an excellent and often vital addition to a marinade.

Hot pepper sauces are crucial in things like Buffalo wing marinade, where it is incorporated, quite generously, into the mellowing comfort of melted butter. You could try doing that (something similar would work well painted onto corn on the cob), but I like how de la Grenade’s Forte adds a warm tingle to the papaya-based marinade in the recipe below. Use this on any tough, typically slow cooking meat you’ve lined up for the BBQ, be that chicken thigh or lamb shoulder, as papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which is incredibly effective tenderiser of tough meat. I think it’s particularly good with pork steaks cut from collar or neck; the kind of things that might not be on a butcher’s display, but the Market’s butchers will oblige if you speak to them and explain what you’re after. The pepper sauce is a powerful component, but doesn’t overwhelm the meat. And in any event, the relish that goes alongside is, helpfully, cooling and invigorating.

Pork collar steaks in hot pepper sauce and papaya marinade, mango and papaya relish

Serves 4

  • 4 x 3-4cm thick pork collar, neck or shoulder steaks

For the marinade

  • 1/4 fresh papaya, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) de la Grenade hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 small banana shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Juice 1/2 lime
  • 2 tablespoon golden caster sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

For the relish

  • 1 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • 3/4 just ripe papaya
  • 1 just ripe mango
  • 1 small red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into 1-2cm dice
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 mild red chilli, deseeded and very finely diced
  • Leaves picked from 20 stems fresh coriander
  • Sea salt

Cut a quarter of the papaya away from the fruit. Wrap the remainder of the whole papaya and refrigerate until required. Cut the flesh of the 1/4 papaya away from the skin and roughly chop. Place in a food processor or blender, along with the remaining marinade ingredients, and pulse then blend until smooth.

Massage the marinade over the pork steaks, then put them in a sealable container or bag, pouring any excess marinade on top. Cover and refrigerate for 4-24 hours.

Shortly before you’re ready to eat, put the very finely sliced red onion in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Mix well, then slice the flesh of the remaining papaya and mango away from their seeds and skin. Cut into 1-2cm dice and add to the onions, ensuring any juice is scraped into the bowl too. Add the remaining salad ingredients and toss well.

Cook the pork steaks on a very hot griddle pan or white hot BBQ, 3-4 minutes per side. Brush with excess marinade throughout. Allow to rest for 4 minutes before slicing and serving with big heaps of the salad, and perhaps some sweet potatoes roasted in the coals of the barbecue.