Carolyn, a long-time lover of spicy food from the Caribbean, is a well-known radio broadcaster on U105, presenter here and a successful creator and marketer of hot sauces which are now on sale in delis and specialist food stores across NI.
The creative entrepreneur has also won major awards, including Great Taste endorsements, for her tasty sauces under her Totally Hot NI branding. The spicy rub from colourful Jamaica developed by Carolyn is traditionally a fiery blend of cumin, allspice, smoked paprika, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper and a sprinkling of brown sugar. In addition to the new jerk seasoning, she’s created original chilli fruit sauces for livening up desserts within a smart new ‘Carolyn Stewart -Turn up the Flavour’ theme. The small company is a Food NI member.
The novel products are the result of development work by Carolyn over the past 12 months of pandemic which saw her usually packed calendar of external music events paused.
A skilled and adventurous cook who loves bold, rich and colourful flavours, Carolyn explains: “While the restaurants and cafes remained closed for much of the Covid crisis, one thing to come out of the lockdowns was a desire among consumers for flavoursome food for cooking at home. While I was no longer mixing the tunes on a Saturday night I turned to my kitchen to fine tune the recipes for my chilli infused fruit sauces and most exciting to perfect my jerk seasoning product.”
The award-winning Caribbean Pickle and Pineapple Chilli products where the first to undergo the new label transformation incorporating Carolyn’s love of characteristic food infusions from the West Indies along with the colours and rhythms of the exotic islands under the new brand. They reflect her longstanding passion for the melodic and infectious sounds of calypso and other rhythms of the indies.
“I love everything about the Caribbean and have enjoyed my frequent holidays there,” she says. “Indeed, I am looking forward to me next trip after Covid restrictions are eventually lifted. I have made it my mission to bring the flavours of the islands to home cooks here and, in time, to many more people in GB.”
Carolyn continues: “So far everyone is loving the new look label. It’s a bit of retro feel that makes the product stand out a bit more on the shelves, but what I wanted most was for people here and in the Republic of Ireland to turn up the flavour of their everyday food with my easy-to-add ingredients straight from the jar! The new products are ideal for the upcoming BBQ season.”
The new additions to the product range with jerk seasoning are Blueberry Chilli Sauce and Raspberry Chilli Sauce.
“The jerk seasoning makes a great marinade for meats, and plant-based options, enhancing flavour but with a punch of heat to finish. The fruit sauces can be used in any dessert, cheese board, dipping sauce or mix up a cocktail to complement any dinner party,” Carolyn adds.
The Caribbean Pickle has been in her portfolio for some time and has already won two awards - Great Taste Award 2017 and a Blas Na Eireann Award in 2019.
Carolyn launched her artisan business venture in 2016 as “a bit of an experiment to see how spicy Caribbean flavours would go down with shoppers and cooks in Northern Ireland”. The unique and richly flavoured sauces – all created by Carolyn in her home kitchen – have been an outstanding success and are to be found in many delis and specialist food stores in Ireland.
She researched Jamaican ingredients and foods and scoured cookbooks in what spare time she had from spinning discs and chatting to callers on her daily radio shows. “It took me two years, a further aresearch trip and lots of sampling in Jamaica to perfect my recipe – a real labour of love and I enjoyed every minute of it,” she says.
The increase in demand has also led Carolyn to subcontract production to a specialist manufacturer of artisan sauces, jams, chutneys and relishes here.
While the artisan food business is continuing to flourish, Carolyn certainly won’t be giving up the day job as a music presenter that she loves. The artisan food business, however, has become an another important string to her guitar!
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