If you follow me on Facebook you might have seen my post over the weekend about the first meeting of our preserves group. It was my friend Kelly’s fabulous idea and I can’t believe it took us this long to get started on something so lovely. Inspired by her brand new CWA Cookbook, Kelly really wanted to find a way to bring people together who like to cook to share ideas, recipes and preserves. I’ve never really had much experience making preserves before, I have fond memories of my mum cooking up large batches of jam from our beautiful old fruit trees but I’ve never actually given it a go myself so I was definitely up for the challenge.
The general idea is that we meet once every few months, taking it in turns to host as we’re from all over the place. Before the meet-up we make up a batch of preserves and then we catch up over endless cups of tea, scones and trade recipes and preserves. It was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon and I left feeling refreshed and buzzing with ideas about what I could have a go at next. I also came home with quite a haul of delicious preserves including some zucchini pickle, tomato relish and chutney, lemon butter and spicy plum jam.
I was running short on time so I kind of cheated. Well, it’s not technically cheating but I went down a different path to the other preservers and made a pesto. I decided not to use any cheese and I drowned it in olive oil in the hopes that it would last a bit longer than usual. I used chillies from my garden which is completely overloaded at the moment and a good whack of basil from the bed which is also going crazy. I blended them up with some cumin, roasted sweet red peppers and almonds and I’m really happy with the final result, even if it’s not technically a preserve.
I definitely recommend playing around with the heat levels until you find something you like, this particular pesto has enough heat to be spicy but it certainly won’t blow your head off. I think it’s also dependent on what kind of chillies you are using as well, the ones I’ve used here are quite mild as far as chillies go so use your judgement if you want to have a go at recreating this at home. I’ve since used it in scrambled eggs, stirred it through pasta and even had some spread on sourdough toast…. Yum!
As to the preserves, well it’s only been a few days since our first meeting and I’ve helped myself to everything and each jar is fabulous. If you’ve been looking to try something a little different then maybe this is just the thing you’ve been looking for so why not give your foodie friends a call and start your very own preserves group. I know I’m certainly inspired to start investigating a whole new form of cooking I’d not really considered before so if you’ve got any suggestions for things I should be trying or reading then please feel free to send them my way.
Now on with the recipe…
Red Chilli Pesto
Makes 1 cup (simply double, triple etc the recipe to make a large batch)
3 red chillies, seeds removed (nb: leave a few seeds in if you really want to amp up the heat levels)
2-3 roasted sweet red peppers
1/2 cup roasted almonds
a good handful of basil leaves
teaspoon of cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 tspn chilli flakes (optional, depends how hot you like it)
juice of one lime
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil (I just used the oil from the jar of peppers)
salt and pepper to taste
Over a really low flame, gently heat the oil and garlic until fragrant. Take care not to burn the garlic.
In a blender combine all ingredients and check heat levels, consistency and seasoning. Add more chillies if you need more heat, maybe some more peppers if it’s not saucy enough and some more nuts if you’d like a nuttier pesto.
Adjust the seasoning until you are happy and then transfer to a sterilised jar.
Leave a bit of a gap at the top of the jar and cover with oil. Keep in the fridge for about a month. If you pop it in the freezer it will probably last up to a year.