Old family recipe revives the lives of Doncaster couple

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An old family recipe from far-off shores has transformed the lives of a young couple and their family in Doncaster.

Gunda Hewitt-Kortava and her husband, Astamur Kortava, are the founders of Ajika; a hot chilli paste which is a core component of Abkhazian cooking.

After returning to Doncaster from Abkhazia, following Gunda’s diagnosis of MS, the couple were struggling to find work.

They decided to create the taste of Abkhazia for food lovers across South Yorkshire. After receiving help from Launchpad; a free-of-charge programme delivered throughout the Sheffield City Region which provides entrepreneurs with advice and support, Gunda and her husband were able to open their first factory store in Doncaster.

Their spicy paste is proving a huge success, and is used by 2017 Masterchef winner Saliha Mahmood in her recipes.

A core component of Abkhazian cuisine, Ajika is a hot chilli paste which is added to many dishes to give a rich flavour burst and incorporates unique flavours, aroma and spices. The recipe is traditionally made at home and not easy to find in the UK.

So Gunda, 33, of Sprotbrough, decided to begin experimenting in the kitchen.

Gunda attempted to recreate the Ajika paste, using a handed down recipe from her husband’s family. Finally, she succeeded in recreating the recipe, and offered some tastings in a local delicatessen.

The unusual spicy paste proved an instant hit and the couple began developing their business ideas further, with help from Launchpad.

Working with a dedicated business advisor, Gunda knew that attracting and retaining repeat custom would be crucial to her success. She spent time learning the basics of running a business in free seminars that covered subjects including bookkeeping, social media and understanding how to forecast profits.

Today, Ajika is sold in delis and farm shops across the country, and is regularly used by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed in her recipes.

The support Gunda and her husband received from Launchpad gave them the confidence to open their first store, Kortava’s Factory Shop in Waterdale where Ajika is manufactured, and also to develop a range of complimentary products including hot, mild and green Ajika pastes. Gunda also works closely with other local food producers.

She said: “I remembered stories from visitors to my mother’s homeland who had tried Ajika and fallen in love with its flavours. My first batch was extremely well received and it made me realise that I might be able earn a living making and selling Ajika.”

Steve Swann, business advisor, Launchpad said: “In Doncaster, the Launchpad programme is delivered by Doncaster Chamber of Commerce. Gunda and her husband turned a negative experience with unemployment into a positive, growing business and I wish them every success for the future.”

For more information on the Launchpad programme, contact the SCR Growth Hub Gateway on 03330 000039 or visit www.scrlaunchpad.co.uk. Find Ajika paste at www.ajika.co.uk and in delis throughout Doncaster.