In My Larder - Premium Ata Dindin

Ata Dindin literary means "fried peppers". This relish style condiment originates with the Yoruba people of Nigeria and is basically made from coarsely blended peppers, chillies, onions, cooked in hot oil until all moisture is driven out! What is left is a thickened (often blackened) spicy pepper sauce settled under a thick layer of oil, (the oil helps to preserve the sauce). This sauce is then used in other dishes or added to other types of foods such as fried meat/chicken, yam, plantains, rice etc.

Nigerian Relish - Premium Ata Dindin

I often seek out similarities in Nigerian cuisine with other cuisines solely to stretch versatility or enhance tastes/flavours. Ata Dindin is a typical example of condiment which I have often desired to serve up as a relish.

Something in your larder which you can pick up and use to enrich other dishes in an instance. A food item that can grace your dinner table any day and always find a place in your menu.

Relish - Premium Ata Dindin

As mentioned earlier, ata dindin is typically made to spice up fried meat or fish. Its also served with rice, yam or plantain. In my recipe today, taking some inspiration from Indian sauces and Ghanaian Shitto, I have created Premium Ata Dindin relish which I found to be so versatile and can be used in a variety of ways.

I applied a few modifications to the process of making my ata dindin. Rather than cook the blended peppers in smoking hot oil the traditional way, instead I decided to slow cook for several hours, adding some key condiments such as ground crayfish, and allowed some time to stand, to develop full tastes flavours. This relish is then stored away until needed. Lasts for days in a refrigerator or months when stored in the freezer. Every larder/fridge/freezer should have some. Bring it out every-time you want to spice up your food!

Below is a guide on how to make your own. I would encourage you to create your own signature relish. One that creates an identity for you as a home cook or professional chef....

Ata Dindin

What you need
  • Red sweet peppers (tatase)
  • Onion
  • Scotch bonnet chilli (this is optional, only use if you want your relish to be really spicy)
  • Tomato paste (fresh tomatoes may be used but choose well ripened ones.)
  • Good quality chicken stock (use stock cubes as an alternative)
  • Birds eye chillis (sombo) - use a mixture of green and red ones
  • Red onion
  • Ground dried prawns (dried crayfish is a good alternative)
  • Ground dried herring/bonga fish (sawa)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Coconut oil (because you need a lot of oil for this recipe, make a wise choice. Coconut oil is ideal but it would affect the taste of finished relish. Blended olive oil is a good alternative. You may use other oils that you prefer)
  • Bay-leaf
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Salt

Ata Dindin

What to do
Stage 1: making the base sauce
  1. Place some tomato paste, the peppers, onion and scotch bonnet (if using), in the blender and blend till smooth. Add  some water to aid blending.
  2. Heat some oil in a sauce pan and add the blend.
  3. Add the stock, stir. Add some water, depending on the amount of stock you have used and allow to cook for 10 minutes under high heat then turn heat down and simmer (under very low heat) to reduce the sauce down. This may take several hours depending on the quantity of base sauce you are making.  It is better for the sauce to reduce down to create a good thickness and consistency. Taste for and adjust salt being careful not to add too much as some will also be added in stage two.
  4.  Turn heat off and allow the resulting sauce to stand for 24 hours. This process allows flavour development and help reduce any harshness or acidic tastes coming especially from the tomatoes / or paste.

Stage 2. turning the base sauce into ata dindidn relish
  1. Finely chop some green and red birds eye chillies. Finely chop the red onions, garlic and ginger.
  2. Heat the oil (add one a half part oil to one part base sauce - made in stage 1 above) in a deep base pot/pan then carefully add the fresh thyme, chopped ginger, onions, garlic and chillies. Add some salt and stir through. Allow these to fry until onions begin to turn brown. 
  3. Then add the base sauce from stage 1. This would sizzle violently but carefully stir through and allow to cook for about 5 minute then turn heat right down. Add the bay leaf, and the ground dried prawns and ground bonga fish at a ratio of 1:1, Add as much or little as you want. The more added the moreish the relish. 
  4. Allow to cook through under very low heat until all moisture is driven out of the sauce.You will notice that thick sauce settle to the base of the pot and the oil float to the top when this happens. It may take a few hours. 
  5. Remove from heat and allow sauce to stand for several hours to enable the complete separation of the oil from the sauce. Skim off the excess oil (this can be used in other dishes so do not throw away). Allow a little layer of oil to remain. This helps to preserve the relish, plus the oil is infused with lots of flavours and is equally delicious so you can serve some with your relish. Done!

Ata Dindin


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