I joke that my daughter Carly brought home a souvenir from her two summer seasons of working at a fishing lodge in Russia – her new South African husband.
Tyrone, a fly-fishing guide by profession, has been a great addition to our family. On his first visit to Alaska while Carly and Ty were still dating, they flew out to Winterlake Lodge during the Iditarod. Winterlake is the Finger Lake checkpoint along the race and it’s always a hectic time at the lodge. Due to severe winter weather and extreme snow, we spent most of Ty’s visit shoveling the roofs of our buildings so they wouldn’t collapse. Ty learned how to ski, to snowmachine, and how to run sled dogs. He cut firewood with a chainsaw and ax, learned how to unload an airplane in blowing wind, and he experienced lodge life when thirty people were stuck at our house for four days due to bad weather.
In turn, we learned how to call a car trunk a boot and a cookie a biscuit, and that not everyone wants coffee in the morning. My garbage can became a rubbish bin. We tried to learn how to pronounce Ty’s last name – Potgieter. It has a kind of little guttural swirl in the middle of it that I am still not quite getting right.
Fast-forward a few years. Ty and Carly are happily married and living in Anchorage. Ty has built a cabin, he has fished for salmon and trout, he’s gotten a Coast Guard captain’s license, and he’s taken helicopter lessons. He owns Carhartts (the good kind with the double knee patch) and a Leatherman, bunny boots, and he has duct tape on his jacket. Sound familiar?
Just as some of Alaska has found its way into Ty, a few South African influences have found their way into our family in Alaska. We all seem to drink a little bit more tea these days. Jill, Ty’s mother, gave me a book on South African cuisine when she came to visit. I’ve learned to understand what biltong is – South African jerky made predominantly with the spice coriander and some kind of meat, like antelope or ostrich. I’ve tried bobotie, a pie made with ground meat, turmeric and other curry spices with a kind of egg custard on top. We’ve started calling the barbecue a braai (South African word for outdoor grill).
My entire family travelled to South Africa over the past few weeks. They saw plenty of wild animals, went swimming in the ocean, and toured the countryside. They brought back some biltong, South African wine and a few other exotic treats for me to try. One South African specialty that I have come to enjoy is peri-peri, a kind of hot sauce served with fish or chicken.
Peri-peri sauce is made from minced small red chilies, oil, garlic, and lemon juice. The amount of chilies you use can vary depending on how hot you want your sauce to be. For two cups of oil, use between 4 to 10 red chilies to vary the heat of the sauce. And, nearly every other ingredient in this sauce can be adjusted up or down – lots of lemon juice (or try lime) or just the lemon rind; lots of garlic or just a hint.
Try a little peri-peri marinated crab or other seafood on crackers for a holiday appetizer – or toss into pasta with chicken or fish for a main course.
- 4 small red chilies
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- Rind of 1 lemon, cut into strips
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Combine all the ingredients together and mix well into a glass jar. Store the peri-peri sauce in the fridge between uses.