Ajika is a hot, spicy but subtly flavoured paste often used to flavour food mainly in the Caucasian regions of Abkhazia and Samegrelo. Ajika is usually red, though green ajika can be made with unripe peppers. The name itself comes from the Abkhaz word аџьыка “salt” – the more descriptive аџьыкаҟaҧшь (literally, “red salt”) and аџьыкаҵәаҵәа are also used to refer specifically to ajika.
The Abkhazian variant of ajika is based on a boiled preparation of hot red peppers, garlic, herbs and spices such as coriander, dill, blue fenugreek (only found in mountain regions such as the Alps or the Caucasus), salt and walnut. A dry form of ajika exists that is sometimes called svanuri marili in Georgian (სვანური მარილი “Svanetian salt”); this looks like small red clumps mixed with a looser version of the spice mixture. Home-made ajika is available from many market stalls in the Caucasus and in the Krasnodar Krai of Russia. Tomatoes are not an ingredient of traditional ajika, though different versions of ajika, sometimes having tomatoes as a main ingredient, are produced on a commercial scale and sold in supermarkets in Ukraine and Russia.
In appearance and consistency ajika resembles Italian red pesto. The spiciness varies from recipe to recipe; those acquainted with British-Asian curry styles would probably rate a typical ajika as “vindaloo strength”.
- 12-14 hot red chilli peppers
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
- ⅓ bunch coriander, rinsed and dried
- ¼ bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, rinsed and dried
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- a large pinch of salt
- canola and olive oil, 50/50, as needed for a paste like consistency
- Spread peppers on a table or benchtop lined with paper and let air dry for about 2 days or until the chillies become slightly wrinkled.
- Using disposable gloves, wash the chillies, cut off the stems and cut each chilli in half. Scrape out the seeds and reserve.
- Put the chillies, garlic, coriander and parsley into a food processor, add a splash of olive oil and a splash of Canola and pulse until paste like consistency. Add more oil if needed.
- Check the spiciness and add some of the reserved seeds if the sauce seems too mild to your taste.
- Season with dried herbs and salt and pulse for another couple of seconds. Transfer the sauce to a clean jar and store in the refrigerator.