Mazavaroo: a Mauritian veld fire in your mouth

I have known grown men to drink Tabasco straight from the bottle, while others in brave response chewed maniacally on raw chillies. But if you are a chilli fan, one of the most complex ways to enjoy this curious combination of flavour and pain is mazavaroo.

Mazavaroo: a Mauritian veld fire in your mouth
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To make and preserve mazavaroo without travelling to Mauritius, you will need:

  • 200g dew-fresh chillies, some red, some green
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 or 3 limes
  • 5g coarse salt
  • 60ml canola, peanut or sunflower oil
    Optional extras:
  • Half-teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon
  • Half-teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • Quarter-teaspoon ground jeera (cumin)

Mazavaroo is a personal combination of flavours, dominated by chilli but revved
up by the cultural or historical choices of the cook. The standard minimum ingredients are chillies, garlic, oil and salt.

Everything else is your contribution.

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You can add a tiny spoonful of this glorious paste to any pasta dish, shisa nyama, cheese sandwich or grilled fish. Instead of reaching for the Tabasco, add a little of your very own mazavaroo instead.

1. Buy – or better, pick from your garden – good-looking, blemish-free chillies, some red, some green. Remove the stems and wash the fruit to remove any trace of Mother Earth. Crush and peel the fresh garlic.

2. Remove and collect the zest from the limes, substituting lemons if necessary.

3. Now for maceration. The high-speed method is a food processor, but the most rewarding way to do it is in a mortar with a pestle. Place the chillies, garlic, 20ml vegetable oil and coarse salt in the mortar and grind them to a paste with the pestle. The coarseness of the salt assists the maceration. When everything – chilli pips and all – has been reduced to a coarse paste, move on to the next process.

4. Heat the oil of your choice (but not olive oil) in a saucepan and add the contents of the mortar or food processor. Stir-fry the paste over low heat for two minutes. Add the optional cinnamon, turmeric and/or jeera and stir into the hot mixture for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the zest and let the hot paste stand for a few minutes.

5. Serve in tiny saucers with salt spoons as cutlery. To preserve your mazavaroo, sterilise pickling bottles in the oven; when cool, pour in the mixture, adding a 5ml layer of vegetable oil to finish it off. Once a bottle is opened, keep it in the fridge. Be warned: it‘ll need refilling sooner than you think!

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.