Food presentation challenges me! I’m not the most artistic brush on the block but putting together an appealing plate is always my goal. Sometimes I reach it, other times I look the other way!
We were having guests for dinner. I had a jar of my “Sugar and Spice Red Pepper Jelly” sitting on the refrigerator shelf and needed a way to serve it as a starter. I don’t put out appetizers for my guests – we head straight for the table, eat the starter and drink and converse before moving to the last-minute dinner preparation. That way our tummies are sated, we’re starting to get well-oiled and the main courses can be final-prepared and presented without us scarfing down the entire dish in five minutes.
The wheels in my brain started clicking. Brie. Individual rounds. Topped with Red Pepper Jelly. Surrounded by Watercress dressed in a Vinaigrette infused with ginger and red pepper and accompanied by Baguette toast points. The colors – coral, green, cream – they popped in my mind’s eye – and I knew the tastes would blend beautifully.
They did. All was eaten and the space of time between the starter and the main courses was filled with glasses clinking, voices laughing and anticipation of what was to come!
Here’s the recipe for the Sugar and Spice Red Pepper Jelly, followed by the Vinaigrette. And if you’re replicating the dish, warm the cheese just to melting before topping it with the jelly!
SUGAR AND SPICE RED PEPPER JELLY
Combine plump red peppers with bold red chili peppers and the result is a luxuriously red spicy jelly with a sweet overtone. An excellent jelly to serve with hot or cold meats, as a relish for leftover turkey sandwiches, or as a topping for cheese. Just a dip of a spoon into the jar is all that’s needed to savor its burst of flavors.
Mis en Place:
What You Need:
4 red bell peppers, chopped into 1-2-inch pieces
2 red chili peppers, seeds removed and chopped into quarters
575 grams sugar
280 milliliters apple cider vinegar
Utensils and Tools:
Jelly jars, sterilized
Put metal teaspoon into the freezer. This is used at the end of the process to test for doneness.
Red bell peppers. Red chili peppers.
Put all roughly chopped peppers into food processor. Pulse until the pieces are finely chopped but not to the stage of puree. Add to saucepan.
Add to saucepan. Bring all to a boil.
Cut back the heat to simmer and reduce mixture by at least 2/3. This should take at least an hour. Increase the time if it’s still too liquid. The jelly will appear loose and un-jelled.
Remove spoon from freezer and dip into jelly to coat the bottom of the spoon. Run your finger down the underside of the spoon and if it leaves a clear path, the jelly is finished. If it runs, continue to simmer.
When fully cooked, put into sterilized jelly jars and refrigerate.
GINGER AND RED PEPPER-INFUSED VINAIGRETTE
What You Need:
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons wine vinegar (I used Sherry Vinegar)
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Small knob of ginger, peeled and diced
2 small slices of a red chili pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all in a screw-top jar and shake well to mix. Refrigerate until ready to drizzle over the Watercress. Leave the ginger chunks and chili pepper in the dressing .