Foodie Essentials

Mustard powder is a must in all kitchen grocery cupboards

Food and wine writer Janine Walker shares her passion for a condiment that makes her nose itch

27 August 2020 - 00:00 By Janine Walker
The author's grandfather used to mix his own hot English mustard using mustard powder, brown vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
The author's grandfather used to mix his own hot English mustard using mustard powder, brown vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
Image: 123RF/Andrii Pohranychnyi

Mustard may seem to be a strange choice as one of my essential kitchen ingredients, but let me explain why: it conjures up emotive food memories and may have ingrained in me my love of food.

Our family has never quite understood where my maternal grandfather, Ivan, got his passion for food. Descended from English 1820 stock and born and raised at Mpotulo trading station near Queenstown, you would have thought his taste buds would have veered towards that of his generation and peers for bland English nursery food.

Not so. He was eclectic, making everything from brawn and tripe to chopped herring and marmalade.

Mustard had to be hot and stimulate (read annihilate) the nasal passages, not that woosie French Dijon or sweet American stuff

He also liked mustard; preparing it himself freshly each time with Colman’s mustard powder, brown vinegar and a smidgen of sugar. Mustard had to be hot and stimulate (read annihilate) the nasal passages, not that woosie French Dijon or sweet American stuff.

So, from the age of three, I remember eating it on and in everything — from hot dogs and Cumberland sausages to Welsh rarebit. To this day I still add the powder to a vinaigrette, and beef roasts are also tenderly massaged with the yellow paste.

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without ham and lashings of English mustard.

Funnily enough, I can’t eat as much chilli as I can mustard — my tongue is clearly far more sensitive than my proboscis.

Of course, I was in my element when sushi made its way to SA shores in the early 1980s. Mustard and wasabi may be cousins and not brothers but they both contain allyl isothiocyanate, which causes the nasal burning sensation, the same as horseradish.

Mustard oil and seeds are used in a variety of Indian dishes, and what would German sausages be without mustard?

Ivan’s love of mustard taught me to be adventurous when it came to all things culinary. Tomato sauce wouldn't have imparted the same life’s lesson.