Growing up, my parents had a deli in South Wales and we lived above the shop. My dad would drive to London every week to pick up produce so there were always interesting things around. I think I was always destined to do something with food. Originally, I had a stall at Maltby Street Market in London selling wood-fired, sourdough flatbreads with Eastern Mediterranean-style toppings. It was while I was doing that that I came up with the recipe for the pomegranate ketchup that I sell today.
What happened was that I had a really bad hangover.
I made a bacon and egg sandwich and was looking in the cupboard for something that I could put on it that was sweet and sour. You see, I've had this lifelong fear of ketchup. It's like a phobia. It's a really weird hatred of tomato ketchup. I don't know what it is. Something terrible must have happened to me as a child because now even just looking at ketchup grosses me out. So, I was looking for something to go on the bacon and egg sandwich that I could eat.
In the end I just made this random sauce with pomegranate molasses, tomato, onion, garlic, and some spices. I put it on my sandwich and thought it was delicious. A week later, I gave it to my friends at a barbecue. Everyone was like, "fucking hell, this is great. You need to sell this." So I bottled it and sold it on the market stall with handwritten labels saying "pomegranate ketchup" and people loved it. I started getting serious with the sauce and focusing on a business selling the ketchup.
The recipe has changed a lot since I first made it and it took a long time to get it perfect. We had to figure out how we'd make it on such a massive scale. I used to use shitloads of pomegranate molasses in it, which wouldn't be affordable to do now. I also originally added this Turkish red pepper paste but we couldn't find a good enough one which didn't have any additives and that came in bulk. Now, I use paprika. I took loads of the sugar out as well because it was very, very sweet.
But the principle of the recipe stayed the same. It's not a very complicated recipe and it's all natural ingredients. It's just pomegranate molasses, lovely Greek tomatoes, spices (cinnamon, a bit of allspice, and paprika), a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar, a tiny bit of salt, and unrefined cane sugar. Fruit in ketchup sounds strange but it works! It's a bit more tart and tangy because the pomegranate molasses is really sour and sweet at the same time.
It still passes the hangover test. It goes really well with anything fatty because it's quite tangy and cuts through things like bacon, sausages, or a fried egg. Making ketchup isn't something I thought I'd do, but it's cool. If someone told me a few years ago that I'd end up selling ketchup though, I would have told them to shut the front door.
My parents' deli in Wales now stock my ketchup. My dad even has a blackboard outside the front saying, "Come in and buy Dixie's pomegranate ketchup." He actually sells more jars than any other stockists! In a way, everything's gone full circle.
Dixie Innes is a chef and co-founder of Aphrodite's, a craft food business based out of a railway arch in Forest Gate, London.