My first encounter with “Mother In Law” was about 7 years ago when we had some relatives here on vacation during that summer, from Trinidad. My aunt had a huge pot of pelau bubbling in the back yard (love cooking in the outdoors during the warm months) and my other aunt who was visiting, raved that we must try her “mother in law” as a condiment with the pelau. I learned that day that “mother in law” was the name given to a sort of crunchy salsa, that’s packed with flavour and heat from extremely hot peppers. We’ve perfected the art of eating spicy foods, peppers and hot sauces in the Caribbean and this is yet another example of how creative we can get with our cuisine and word association. So where does the name come from? (don’t quote me on this) I believe it’s because like this hot sauce/salsa, a person’s mother in law is notorious for being heated, spicy and finds a way to leave an impression on you (negative or not) without much effort.
Once you adjust the heat level on this one, you’ll find that like me, this will be your favorite “hot” condiment. I learned on that summer’s day, with a steaming plate of pelau in hand, that I could actually love my “mother in law”
1 large carrot (diced)
1 medium onion (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
4 hot peppers (I used habanero)
juice from 2 limes or lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium green mango (diced)
1 caraili (bitter melon) -optional – I dislike this so I didn’t use it.
2 tablespoon white vinegar
4 leaves of shado beni (chopped fine)
fresh black pepper
Notes: I didn’t have fresh shado beni, so I opted for 3 table spoons of chopped cilantro. Normally caraili (bitter melon) is used for this recipe, but since I don’t like this vegetable I left it out. If you can’t get caraili or you’re like me and don’t like caraili, you can use a medium sized cucumber. I recommend leaving the skin on the cucumber if using this instead (for a bit of crunchy texture).
The key here is to dice/cube everything the same size and if you’re not using a food processor, it can be a bit time consuming. I love working with my hands so I used a sharp chef’s knife. Peel and wash the carrot, then cut it into 2 main pieces, then jullien and finally dice into very small cube like pieces (see pics below)
Wear gloves for this step – chop the hot peppers the same size as you did the carrot. For maximum heat I recommend keeping the seeds. But if you’re a wuss, do remove the seeds to control the heat.
Now peel the mango, give it a rinse under cool water and dice the same as you did with the hot peppers and carrot. When shopping for a “green” mango (one that’s not ripe), you’re looking for one without any blemishes, very firm (hard) and with be a bit shiny and dark green or a reddish green depending on the variety you get. A ‘green’ mango will be very tart in taste and crunchy in texture.
Add all these ingredients to a large bowl and get ready to assemble everything. I assume you’ve done the same to the onion and garlic (try to get the garlic a bit more fine). Don’t forget to chop the shado beni or cilantro as I did and dice the cucumber if you opted to use that.
In the bowl with the onion, garlic, carrot, shado beni… etc, add the salt, fresh ground black pepper, juice of the lime or lemon and vinegar. Give this a good stir, cover and allow it to marinate in the fridge for a couple hours. Obviously I’m greedy and started on mine seconds after making. The fresh scent of the lemon juice, coupled with the cilantro and hot peppers was just too alluring for me to show any sort of restraint.
This can last for a couple weeks in the fridge if you’re wondering (glass bottle), but the longer it stays in the fridge it will have the tendency to get less spicy.
I have to ask… do you know why it’s called mother in law? Was my explanation close? BTW, I was told there’s one that’s even more spicy… guess what it’s called – Daughter In Law!
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