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Kitchen garden: several pestos and a chilli jam!

April 17, 2011

Since moving to Newlands, Cape Town, I’ve developed a bit of fondness growing fresh herbs (and living with a gardening hobbit helps). I think anything will grow in Newlands, which has the wettest climate in the whole of SA whilst still benefiting from episodes of glorious sunshine. The area is home to the beautiful Kirstenbosch botanical gardens and so its no surprise that I’ve ended up with a garden full of edible produce!

Several things in the garden have been particularly successful in the sunny summer weather: Basil (I didn’t know basil came as trees…), jalapenos (and there’s only so many chilli poppers you can eat) and the Vietnamese coriander (so much better than its standard counterpart but still, we have too much!). It would seem to me to be a massive waste if I let this herby abundance die off in the approaching Cape winter, so here’s the preservation recipes I’ve created this week:

Basil pesto

Pesto is ridiculously expensive everywhere I’ve found it. And when you look at recipes and price ingredients, the use of pine nuts prohibits making your own any cheaper – even if you do have a forest of basil like me! Never one to be deterred, especially since Ben will live on the stuff if need be, I worked out my own, just as good recipe without pine nuts!


– Amounts depend on the size of your jars, I have these really good “my jars” available for R19.99 at Pick n Pay at the moment – awesome because they have a little chalk board patch on the outside and come with chalk to make reusable labels – I guess they are about the size of a large mayonnaise jar. But generally I use pepperdew jars which would be about half the amounts stated here. Also amounts are largely dependent on taste/texture desired, this really is a taste it and tweak recipe!

3-4 big handfuls of basil
Mid range olive oil – unless you can afford gratuitous amounts of nice stuff, it really doesn’t matter so much.
Handful of macadamia nuts
Lots (1/2 cup or so) of grated parmesan (or similar italian hard cheese)
Ground black pepper.
Squeeze of lemon juice.


Blend, taste, adjust seasoning. It really is that simple.
If you want to keep for a while, sterilise your jars properly (I always do mine in the oven), and top with a little extra olive oil.

Asian Pesto

Inspired by the range of pestos made by pesto princess (available in Pick n Pay, Melissas and the neighbourgoods and Porter estate markets), I decided to branch out and try something a little different and of course Asia is my favourite place in the world (don’t tell South Africa) so this seemed only natural!


2 handfuls of basil
1 handful vietnamese coriander
1 tsp grated ginger/galangal
1 tsp lemongrass
1/2 tsp chopped red chilli (less or more depending on preference).
Olive oil (again, go with the cheap stuff)
Handful of macadamias
1 tbs peanuts
1/4 cup of parmesan.
A squeeze of lime juice
Ground black pepper.


As above!

Mango and Jalapeno jam

An easy recipe, without pectin (as I’m too lazy and poor to invest in it, there are however plenty of similar recipes out there using it, it probably helps the jam keep for longer).

Ingredients (makes one very large jar)

3 mangos
1 red onion
As many jalapenos as you can bear! Also depends how hot they are, I used about 10 I think.
2 tbsp brown sugar.
A dash of lemon juice (half a freshly squeezed lemon should do)
Some chopped vietnamese coriander


Finely chop the mango, red onion, jalapeno and vietnamese coriander. Boil the mango, jalapenos and red onion with the lemon juice and brown sugar until soft, add a little water if necessary. Add the coriander and leave to cool before placing into sterilised jars!

This goes perfect with jerk chicken or on top of burgers with some great cheddar cheese. In fact I regularly have to restrain myself from eating it with a spoon!

More preserve recipes coming soon as winter approaches in the Cape! If you are in Cape Town, I’m also looking to sell some jars of pesto and possibly habanero hot sauce which is in the works! Contact me if you are interested:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. marianne evers permalink
    April 17, 2011 9:13 pm

    Sounds delicious,wish i was there to taste it.Grandad is thrilled that someone loves to grow food like he did . x x


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