Kuchela is one of those spicy condiments traditionally made with green mangoes and a must-have topping for ‘doubles’, saheena and pholourie (street food in Trinidad and Tobago). Being that I call Canada home and green mango is not something I can go in my back yard and pick off the trees as I did for my mom when I was a young fella on the islands, Granny Smith apples are my new choice. Though sweet, the slight tartness and sturdy texture of these green apples makes an ideal kuchela when you can’t source mangoes.
5 green apples (Granny Smith)
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic
3-4 tablespoons amchar masala
3/4 cup veg oil
2 scotch bonnet peppers
Notes: You can purchase the amchar masala at most West Indian markets and there are times you can get it on Amazon.com. Grate with the skin on for additional texture, but be sure to get apples which are not covered in wax as they are sometimes.
Please remember to wear gloves and wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling scotch bonnet peppers. Dice the peppers finely, including the seeds for more heat. You have the option of dicing or crushing the garlic. Then using the sort of shred side of your grater, grate the apples until the core.
You now have two option, you can squeeze off all the liquid from the grated apples, but if you want a more saucy kuchela you can remove about half the liquid. It may take a bit of work to squeeze off the liquid with your hands, or you can use a towel and wring the liquid out.
When making traditional mango kuchela, we try to get all the moisture out of the grated mango and it’s then spread onto a kitchen towel and placed in the open sun for a couple hrs to dry off. This process makes it easy to infuse the grated mango with the Kuchela flavors. In this recipe we’ll cook everything on the stove top for a few minutes to replicate that sort of infusion we need for this to be a great kuchela.
In a wide saucepan on a LOW heat, heat the vegetable oil, then go in with the diced pepper and garlic. Let that gently cook for about 3-5 minutes. Be sure to turn the fan above your stove on or at least open your kitchen windows. The cooked peppers will give off a strong (choking) scent.
Now add the amchar masala, cook for a minute, then add the grated apple and salt. Mix well, cook for 2-3 minutes and you’re done!
Traditionalists will be able to identify the natural sweetness of the apples, but I assure you that this apple kuchela is just as exciting as any I’ve had on the islands and that sweetness adds a lovely overall roundness to the kuchela as it ages for a few days. You can store these in sterilized glass containers on your kitchen counter for a couple weeks, then store in the fridge.