The Little House loves some spice, and we’re always looking for new ways to crank up the heat and flavour in the kitchen. Thank goodness for Vasco Da Gama – this time not for establishing a spice route, but for inspiring the Vasco Da Gama Peri Peri range – the heat we love to eat!
I remember how my first interaction with Vasco Da Gama Peri Peri left me quietly excited to try out a range of products that founder, Wayne van Zyl, passionately promised me would be unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Wayne’s energy is infectious and his enthusiasm for his products simply unbridled. I felt the heat of anticipation long before a box of peri peri sauces found its way to my doorstep.
But before we continue, here’s an important public service announcement – we’re hooked on the stuff. Completely and utterly. As you were.
Wayne recalls his earliest peri peri-soaked memories – buying portions of slap chips after school at the Portuguese-owned café, called Atlantic Café in Nelspruit’s town centre. He still remembers the distinct flavour and aroma of the chilli sauce the owner drenched the chips in; a hot, greasy lunch, filling your nose with the smell of warm spices as you walk home.
Many years later, and stranded by COVID, Wayne tried to replicate this fond childhood memory by experimenting with his interpretation of the chilli sauce. After many tries, he finally managed to cook up a batch of peri peri sauce that captured that specific nostalgic memory, filled with a deliciously intoxicating blend of paprika, garlic, ginger, black pepper and chilli.
Hard-pressed by the lockdown bans enforced due to COVID, Wayne put his heart and soul into marketing his peri peri products, starting close with friends and family. Soon, he realised that like the slow burn of a good chilli sauce, the fire is spreading, and his products were exceptionally well received. I guess you could say, the rest is history.
The Vasco Da Gama Peri Peri brand pays homage to the flavours and aromas of collective Portuguese cuisine, and nods in the direction of the 14th century East African trade route, when herbs and spice became coveted trade commodity.
There are currently three peri peri products in the Vasco range – the original / mild sauce, the hot sauce and a spice shaker. They’re all made authentically, small batch and with great quality control.
The nod to the origin of spices and herbs, as well as to the carving of the spice trade route and its pioneers, is not only apparent in the flavour of the sauces, but also beautifully echoed on the labelling of the bottles.
But first, peri peri chicken and chips
The first thing I did, was put the spice on a generous portion of slap chips. Forget the tomato sauce, the vinegar, the lemon or the table salt – this is all you need for the ultimate chip experience. Over the weeks, as I’ve been using more and more of the Vasco spice, I’ve come to realise that it’s incredibly versatile and food-loving. Not overly spicy; rather fragrant, vibrant and just the perfect blend to make almost every meal mouth-watering.
To get a taste of the sauces, I slathered a spatchcock chook rather bravely with the hot sauce, ready to grill it to gnarly perfection on the braai. I particularly loved the short list of ingredients in the sauces, meaning there’s no nasties hidden in it; just chunks of fresh chilli, a mix of spices and that intensely glorious orange chilli oil, dripping liquid gold onto the fire.
I reserved the mild peri peri sauce for my braaibroodjies. I slow roasted a butternut and red peppers over the coals, and added the mild sauce generally to my broodjies, along with slices of the charred butternut, red pepper and cheese. A delightfully bright upgrate to the humble broodjie, we paired our feast with a woody Chardonnay, which lapped up all the gorgeous aromas and oily goodness of the peri peri.
Exclusive coffee beans
Just as the bounty of the spice route extended past black pepper and cloves, Wayne has expanded his portfolio with the inclusion of an exclusive coffee product. If you are a coffee fan, then you will take immense pleasure in this Ethiopian coffee from the Sidamo District.
Uniquely packaged in a recyclable glass bottle with a drip-wax seal, the beans are perfectly roasted to a medium profile. Exclusively available at the Vasco Da Gama online shop.
We brewed our coffee strong and fragrant, without adding milk or sugar. The signature deep and complex profile of the Sidamo region coffee was apparent in our brew: a delightful mixture of spice, stone fruit and citrus, with a richness that warms you from the inside out, much like the peri peri sauces. The Vasco coffee beans make for a lovely gift for any coffee aficionado, or just a self-indulgent splurge for lazy weekend mornings.
I’m really glad my spice ship came in, with a formidable name of Vasco Da Gama Peri Peri. These sauces and spice have already become staples in The Little House and I use it on pretty much everything. Even if you’re not a massive heat-lover, the mild sauce packs a gorgeously fragrant punch, rather than a sting. Mix a big spoonful into your white sauce to level up your pasta game, or add it to your Mexican mince and beans for a delicious feast.
The spice is way more aromatic and intensely fragrant than hot – I didn’t find much heat in the spice and if I did, it was more of an addictive zing than a throat burner. My shaker has been empty for weeks already, and I think I’m suffering withdrawal!
Thank you, Vasco Da Gama, for adding a bit of spice to our lives!
Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated / credited, are also my own.