Have you ever tried chimichurri? This zesty South American sauce has now made its way to the UK, thanks to friends Koosha and Miles, founders of Cantina. These flavour fanatics met when studying abroad in South America, and soon caught the bug for the delicious barbecued meats smothered in chimichurri.
Miles kindly caught up with me and talked all things chimi!
MN: We both used to live in South America and we would eat it on everything, all the time! We began by making it for family and friends once back in the UK and it grew organically from there. We weren’t sure if people would go for it, but everyone who tried it really liked it. We’re pretty faithful to the way the Argentines produce it, although in Argentina it doesn’t really come in bottles. People tend to make their own, so no one chimichurri is ever the same. One thing we do differently to the Argentines is use cider vinegar instead of red or white wine vinegar.
SD: It can be used as a sauce or a marinade – what’s the best recipe that you’ve used it in?
MN: The recipe for our marinated chicken drumsticks proved a hit but on a personal level, my favourite is to have it with poached eggs. It’s so simple yet tastes incredible.
SD: Your chimichurri recipe is all natural and vegan! Was it important to you that you not use preservatives and other ‘nasties’? Was it difficult to ensure that it was vegan-friendly?
MN: Absolutely – we both lead healthy lives and a natural product was something we weren’t willing to compromise. It made our product development infinitely harder (and longer) but we wouldn’t have had it any other way! Because it’s a natural product, the oil and the vinegar naturally separate. It took us a good six to nine months of playing around with the separation to find a production method that could work. The vegan aspect was much easier, as chimichurri is naturally vegan.
“It took us a good six to nine months of playing around with the separation to find a production method that could work.”
SD: Chimichurri isn’t a hot sauce, but is a zesty sauce. How would you suggest restaurants and hotels use it?
MN: It’s traditionally eaten with steak but it’s such a versatile sauce – you can use it to marinade chicken and fish, or slather it over veggies or falafels. We’re always so impressed with how people’s imagination conjures up new recipes we wouldn’t have even thought of…We’ve seen some chefs using it to marinade fish or cook up a curry, but it’s just as good in a sandwich or instead of Lea & Perrins with cheese on toast. What we’ve found is that people from different countries associate it with different things from their own cultures. People from the Middle East often say it’s similar to a sauce they use in their local cooking, but it’s much harder to relate to British cuisine. The taste is quite unlike other sauces. Probably the closest that comes to it is a pesto especially in terms of consistency.
SD: Why do you think that people are more concerned about the ingredients in condiments?
MN: There’s a been a very clear shift in the attention people are giving to their well-being, going beyond simply trying to get fit or lose weight. They want to make sure what they eat is actually good for them, even if its just a few dollops of sauce.
SD: Do you find that your openness about your healthy ingredients sets you apart?
MN: People are all too used to seeing an endless list of questionable ingredients on their condiment bottle so it’s certainly a breath of fresh air for them to see only natural and honest ingredients. A lot of people don’t actually believe us until they read the bottle themselves.
SD: Do you have any other condiments in the works?
MN: Yes, we’ve just launched a chilli-chimi (spicy chimichurri) and are planning a chimi-mayo in the next few months. Most of the feedback we got was that people liked spicy food, so the chilli-chimi came about to cater for this taste, while the chimi-mayo was more something we developed for ourselves and really liked. It’s been a challenge to create, though, because it’s an egg-based product. We’re still working on getting it right.
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