On my last visit to The Ideal Home Show Scotland I spent ages wandering around the food hall tasting food and drink from some of Scotland's best independent producers. One of the products that caught my attention was a range of sauces from MaRobert's, run by Maggie Mazoleka from her Edinburgh kitchen.
Produced to a secret recipe with 100% natural ingredients, MaRobert's sauces are packed with flavour and a fair amount of scotch bonnet chilli too. Originally coming in just one style (hot), which is a massive understatement, Maggie now produces a medium spiced and fruity version of her Tanzanian Pili Pili sauce and perfect for cooking with meat, pasta, rice, vegetables, barbecues or dipping.
I bought a jar of the medium sauce on the day which was put to good use in a spicy rice dish, and have since been kindly sent a set of all three styles to put through their paces.
Here's Maggie's story;
How did you get started?MaRobert’s sauces are a long time in the making, and it all started in rural Samuye in Tanzania where I was born. In my youth we grew and made all our food from scratch, and my passion for good food and good flavours developed from a young age in the kitchen. I moved from Tanzania 23 years ago to Edinburgh, and whilst at University I started a charity called Sashita, aiming to enhance the quality of life for women and young people back in my home province, Shinyanga. I had always made food for family and friends, but I began to make food for larger groups at Sashita events and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. local foodies began asking me to make them my trademark sauce so they could enjoy ‘The Taste of Tanzania’ at home. Demand grew, and MaRobert’s was born! Since 2013 I have been producing my range of sauces under MaRobert’s.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
My advice would be to know what you want your business to stand for and stick to those principles, whilst also being flexible enough to listen and react accordingly to the advice of those around you; over time a business must and will evolve, but with MaRobert’s the core elements of the ‘pamoja/together’ spirit remain, as well as the natural authenticity of the sauces. It is important to recognise when to ask for help, and to seek out the advice of trusted mentors when you can’t see so clearly. No good businessperson can work in isolation and it’s all about building a great team. My simplest advice- don’t be scared to think big!
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?I’d love for MaRobert’s sauces to be available across the UK in good quality local shops, delis and food markets. It would be excellent to work with some top chefs to promote East African food more widely, a largely untapped cuisine in the UK market which most people have yet to discover. Within 5 years I’m hoping to get MaRobert’s sauces into Ocado and Waitrose, whilst continuing to stock and support local businesses. Once we’ve gained this momentum, the sky's the limit and we’ll be working to export globally and promote East African food culture around the world. It is my dream to see my sauce selling in shops back in Tanzania one day.
If you could only cook one of your own recipes, what would it be & why?
It has to be my friend rice using MaRobert’s Medium Pili Pili sauce- tangy Tanzanian flavours, and very different to what most people associate with this dish- its delicious! (recipe available on my website- www.ma-roberts.com)
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Perhaps a little cliche but it would have to be Michelle Obama- my passion is my charity, Sashita, and I’d love to pick her brains about how to continue encouraging women all over the world to have the confidence to do great things for themselves. I love how she uses her platform to promote important world and women’s issues and I think she’d have some sage words for me! In terms of food- no messing about here. We’d have a homemade pizza with a Hot Pili Pili sauce base to share with a Safari beer or two. Food is for sharing, and simple classics can be the best when made at home!
Maggie might be a long way from home but she hasn't forgotten her roots. Maggie was born and raised in Tanzania, and feels that the time has come to give something back to underprivileged people in her birth country through MaRobert’s. Every Jar of sauce sold, MaRobert’s will make a contribution to disadvantaged people in rural areas of Tanzania, by setting-up a percentage donation to SASHITA, the charity that was formed by Maggie Mazoleka in 2008, and as a way to support and sustain SASHITA’s work for the long-term future. SASHITA is also helping towards poverty alleviation, assisting in empowerment and improving the standard of living in rural areas of Tanzania in terms of: access to clean water; adequate sanitation; education; sponsorship programme etc.
If you want to get your own jar of Pili Pili sauce, MaRobert's attend a number of Farmers Markets in and around Edinburgh or you can buy online or from a huge range of stockists across Lothian and the central belt.