Raglan couple take their chimichurri nationwide – atop their campervan

There’s nothing unusual about a young couple travelling the country with gear stacked on top of their campervan, but Ben and Ani Parodi did things a little differently – they had up to 800 jars of sauce overhead.

And the enterprising duo have returned to Raglan from their two-month trip with 100 new retail outlets for their own brand of chimichurri, a mild sauce from their native Argentina.

“We also made lots more contacts (for later),” Ben told the Chronicle this week, with wife Ani adding how receptive outlets around the country were to their unique recipe.

Now the pair, who’ve lived five-and-a-half years in Raglan, are also experimenting with a hot version of their chimichurri which they plan to launch in spring.

“People (in Raglan) have been asking for it,” says 32-year-old Ben. So it’s back to the Old School kitchen in Stewart Street to concoct a different blend of the condiment traditionally served with grilled meat back in Argentina.

Ani says the uncooked sauce – with ingredients like parsley, olive oil, oregano, garlic, onions and chili – was a family favourite when she was growing up.

The 30 year old’s grandma, whose recipe she adapted, made chimichurri for regular Sunday get-togethers which included 12 aunties and 32 cousins around the barbecue.

But though chimichurri “back home” is a meat sauce for barbeques and sausage sandwiches, Ben adds, people here use it with everything from roasts to marinated veggies and for spicing up eggs or dressing salads. “It’s versatile.”

Ani says they wanted more fresh flavour in their chimichurri so ditched some dried ingredients in favour of produce from their own garden at home in Opotoru Rd. Never mind they have to get up at 6am on occasion and chop parsley for four hours, she laughs.

Ben says they’ve followed the Raglan trend by using all-natural ingredients – and no sugar, additives or preservatives.

The pair started up their Salsa Brava business a year ago when both had part-time jobs in Raglan and time on their hands. They’d not long returned from a trip back to Argentina to get married.

But it was Raglan that inspired them to give chimichurri a go commercially, they say.

Ben reckons there are “so many people here doing their own thing”. And having travelled the globe together embracing different cultures, they felt the time was right.

.“New Zealand has such a small culture with lots of food influences,” Ben explains. But whereas Mexican food for instance is commonplace, there’s not much from South America.

“We both love South America and love food!”

Support for their venture has come from other local success stories like Raglan Coconut Yoghurt and Venezuelan Juan Gomez, who used to sell his own arepas and churros downtown from a bright yellow food van.

Before taking their product on the road in February – and getting an “amazing” response – the pair say they had “huge help” from neighbour and Whatawhata School principal Matt Stockton in turning their Nissan van into a camper and building a large insulated box on top to carry their chimichurri.

Their product is stocked in both Raglan supermarkets, where there are regular tastings, and is also available from the downtown butchery.

The whole Raglan community have been really keen to support the business, says Ani. “They want you to succeed.”

Edith Symes