This is the famous Ghanaian hot chilli condiment, which can be made in a variety of ways and every household has its own recipe. It goes really well with both fish and meat, and can be served as a side to most dishes. It can also be used for marinating or as a dressing, dip, spread or topping. I eat it with almost everything, but especially love it as a spicy addition to a cheeseboard with other chutneys.
Many of my restaurant customers who are new to Ghanaian cuisine have likened it to the Malaysian condiment sambal belacha, and they’re not wrong – they share the same potent smoky flavour that comes from the addition of ground smoked fish or prawns, as well as its rich texture.
Reading: how to make shito pepper sauce
Shito can be either coarse and full of body or smooth, and medium – or extra – hot depending on how much chilli you use, and this is how you’ll find it labelled on supermarket and African grocers’ shelves. This recipe makes a medium-hot version, which is what we sell at the restaurant in Brixton.
500 ml (18fl oz) rapeseed oil, or substitute sunflower or vegetable oil, plus extra if required
3 red onions, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
8 guinea peppers, ground
7.5 cm (3-inch) piece fresh root ginger, finely grated (unpeeled if organic)
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1 tablespoon chopped thyme or rosemary leaves (optional)
75 g (2 3/4 oz) green kpakpo shito chillies, finely diced (with seeds!), or substitute green Scotch Bonnets, if available, or 2 tablespoons dried chilli flakes
5-6 tablespoons tomato purée
100 ml (3 1/2 oz) good-quality chicken stock
125 g (4 1/2 oz) chilli powder
50 g (1 3/4 oz) dried ground prawn or shrimp powder
50 g (1 3/4 oz) crayfish or smoked fish powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
Tip: You’ll find dried smoked fish powder in speciality food stores or online.
Heat a heavy-based saucepan, then add the oil and fry the onions over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
Add the garlic, guinea peppers, ginger, thyme or rosemary (if using) and chillies and fry together for a few minutes.
Stir in the tomato purée and chicken stock until the mixture has formed a thick paste. Then pour in the chili powder and continue cooking and stirring for a further 10 minutes.
Finally, add the prawns and crayfish powders, then cook over a low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring almost continuously to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan. The contents should transform from deep red to very dark brown and the oil will rise to the surface when the sauce is ready. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
You can choose to blend the sauce with a stick blender or leave it unblended for a coarser texture. Leave to cool, then spoon into sterilized jars. There should be plenty of oil on top of the sauce once it’s cooked, so make sure there is a layer about 1/2 inch thick in each jar. But if there is not enough, pour in extra oil to cover. Seal the jars and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
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Reprinted with permission from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh. Copyright 2017, Mitchell Beazley. Photographs by Nassima Rothacker.