Ajika is a magical ingredient, an irresistible spicy condiment that is never excluded from any traditional Abkhazian table. It has a history that spans familial generations, and as Abkhazians are well-known for being a long-lived people, many believe this is due to their diet, of which ajika is a vital part.
Ajika, in many cases can act as a substitute for salt, so it is believed to have health benefits, especially as all the ingredients are completely natural with no additives. It is made largely from red chili peppers, garlic, salt and a mixture of fine dried herbs.
Traditionally, the making of Ajika was an arduous and time-consuming task. Its preparation used to involve grinding all the ingredients together by hand on a rough slab of grinding stone with a second smoother hand-sized top stone or river cobble. As you can see in the photo, my very own Grandmother making Ajika the only way she knew how. The process was long, but the result was even more delicious, aromatic and special.
How it all started
This is me, Gunda Hewitt-Kortava. Journeying from Abkhazia, a little paradise nestled within the Caucasus mountain range, to the UK in 2015, here’s how I decided to start producing my most-loved spice, Ajika…
Five years ago, I moved to a beautiful part of the Caucasus – Abkhazia – my mother’s native country. I married a native Abkhazian and started family life there. Naturally, I got to know a lot about Abkhazian cuisine and I fell in love with it.
If you ever visit Abkhazia, you will quickly come to realise that the most popular and natural seasoning of Abkhazian cooking is AJIKA, a hot red chili paste. Abkhazians add it to pretty much everything, and its distinctive flavour and aroma makes all the difference .
Ajika is the one essential ingredient and condiment, which I knew we wouldn’t be able to live without, so we made sure we brought plenty of it back with us on our return to England. I managed to pack 2kg into my already overweight luggage, and I wasn’t going to sacrifice one gram. However, 2kg didn’t last long! We had to get more, and fast, but how?
Thinking I could recreate it myself, I endeavoured to ask my husband’s parents for their generation old family recipe of my most-loved spice. After several attempts, I recreated something I thought wouldn’t be possible in the UK – real, authentic Abkhazian Ajika – the best kind!
After that, we recalled all the foreign visitors to Abkhazia over the years who had ever tried Ajika and just how much they loved it. We knew Ajika was already a big hit throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, so why not try it here? That was when we decided to go for it, and bring Ajika’s unique flavour, aroma and versatility to all UK spice-lovers.