Darina Allen: Super versatile courgettes an excellent opportunity for a creative cook

Darina Allen: Super versatile courgettes an excellent opportunity for a creative cook

CALL them by whatever name you fancy, zucchini or courgettes are super versatile and an excellent opportunity for a creative cook to rustle up lots of exciting dishes.

So instead of the usual moaning about a glut of courgettes in August, let’s have fun. The beautiful courgette plant with its huge leaves and hollow stems and beautiful blousey yellow blossoms just goes on giving.

The faster you pick, the faster they seem to grow, so keep on picking and challenge yourself to find new delectable ways to eat them. There are many.

It’s difficult to get one excited about a marrow, though I am partial to some spicy ginger marrow jam made from a genuine marrow, also part of the cucurbit family, rather than a courgette that got away.

They can grow up to an inch a day and become less and less flavourful, the more they expand, so pick them from fingerling size to peak perfection at no more than five to six inches, they are crisp and nutty, a revelation to those who have only tasted the watery commercial version.

I adore crisp, deep-fried courgette blossoms, something you’re unlikely to be able to eat unless you grow your own.

The female flower will have the courgette attached, the male flowers with their long stalks are made for stuffing.

Could be a simple, melty piece of mozzarella with a basil leaf and maybe a scrap of salty anchovy or some Toonsbridge ricotta, Dip them in a simple batter and fry until crisp in a light olive oil.

We’re also loving eating the young crisp zucchini raw as a crudité with a garlicy aioli or tapenade mayo.

Darina Allen: Super versatile courgettes an excellent opportunity for a creative cook

For courgette ‘carpaccio’, try scattering a few long shavings of courgette on a chilled plate, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few shavings of pecorino and crisp deep fried capers — a divine combination.

Little medallions of courgettes tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil in a wok or a fry pan for just a couple of minutes, are the quintessential fast food. Add some flaky sea salt, coarsely chopped annual marjoram, tarragon or basil and serve immediately.

Serve as a side, or toss onto pasta or sprinkle over a piece of grilled mackerel or chicken.

Courgettes barbeque brilliantly too and make delicious little courgette or zucchini cakes.

There’s so much more — ratatouille, caponata, roast summer vegetables ... and I haven’t even mentioned zucchini bread or muffins.

This column could be three times the length, meanwhile a few recipes to whet your appetite; if you still have more courgettes than you can cope with.

Diana’s Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 Loaves

450g 1lb plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 level tsp bread soda – finely sieved

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp ground cloves

120ml 4floz milk

2 organic eggs

110g 4oz butter

110g 4oz castor sugar

3 x15cm 6 inch zucchini – grated

2 oz chopped walnuts

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Happy #weekend!! As it's a bit miserable outside, it's a perfect time for some #weekendbaking, me thinks. If you agree, head to my blog (#recipe link in my bio 👈) for this #veganzucchinibread recipe. It's #refinedsugarfree, can be #oilfree and #glutenfree also. I also tested it as individual muffins so take your pick - all the options are included in the recipe. Enjoy while I'm off to get ready for a wedding reception we are attending tonight 😘 #veganbaking #glutenfree #whatveganseat #veganfoodlover #veganfoodspace #veganuk #zucchinirecipes #zucchinibread #eatplants #eatarainbow #feedfeed @thefeedfeed.vegan #foodblogger #healthydesserts #plantbased #vegansofig #vegansummer #courgette #healthybaking

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Equipment

2 loaf tins 13cm x 20cm or 5”x8” – fully lined

Fully preheat the oven to 180C 350F Reglo 4

Sieve the dry ingredients. In a large wide bowl rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar.

Beat the eggs and whisk in the milk.

Mix into the flour mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon till evenly combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the two loaf tins and bake in the preheated oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes in the tins, remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Courgette and Blossom Salad with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Serves 4–6

This simple salad is delicious served warm with nothing more than a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt.

8 small courgettes with flowers, if available (choose shiny, firm courgettes)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Darina Allen: Super versatile courgettes an excellent opportunity for a creative cook

Extra virgin olive oil

Separate the flowers from the courgettes. Remove the stamens and little thorns from the base of the flowers.

Plunge the whole courgettes into boiling salted water and poach them until barely tender; 4–5 minutes. Remove from the pot and leave to cool slightly. While still warm, slice them at an angle to allow six slices to each courgette.

Season the courgette slices with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and then sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil.

Toss gently and serve immediately, surrounded by the torn courgette flowers.

Hot crusty bread is the only accompaniment needed.

Deep-Fried Courgette Flowers

Serves 6

If you live on the Continent, you’ll be able to buy courgette flowers in your local market. Over here, they’re beginning to appear in farmers’ markets, but more than likely you’ll have to grow them yourself. 

We usually use the male flowers for this recipe, because taking the female flower means you’ll deprive yourself of a courgette. 

Darina Allen: Super versatile courgettes an excellent opportunity for a creative cook

They’re delicious just dipped in batter and deep-fried, but they’re also a vehicle for lots of different stuffings.

12–16 courgette flowers (allow 1–3 flowers per person)

Sunflower oil for deep-fat frying

Batter

150g (5oz) plain flour

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large organic egg white

Sea salt

First make the batter. Then heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer until it’s very hot.

Remove the thorns from the base of the courgette flowers and insert your fingers into the centre and remove the stamens.

Dip each flower in batter, shake off the excess and drop, one by one, into the hot oil. Fry on one side for about 2 minutes and then turn over. They will take about 4 minutes in total and should be crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately, as part of a fritto misto or as a nibble. They’re delicious served with a fresh tomato sauce or sweet chilli sauce.

To make the batter

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, pour in the olive oil and stir. Gradually add enough water, about 175ml to make a batter about the consistency of double cream.

Cover and allow to stand until ready to use. Whisk the egg white to a stiff peak and fold it into the batter and fry to test the seasoning. 

Allow the excess batter to drip off, then lower gently into the oil, shaking the basket all the time. Cook until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper. Taste, add more salt to the batter if necessary.

Variations

Courgette blossoms are also delicious stuffed. Some suggested fillings:

Buffalo mozzarella with pesto, tapenade or concentrated tomato fondue and a basil leaf

Goat’s cheese, chopped chorizo and flat parsley

Chicken or scallop mousse

Zucchini Trifolati

Serves 4

Usually we are super careful not to overcook zucchini, but here the magic is in cooking them to melting tenderness. 

The Italians call this trifolata. The end result will be a chunky puree, an irresistibly delicious vegetable. 

Darina Allen: Super versatile courgettes an excellent opportunity for a creative cook

I also love it piled onto a piece of grilled bread or on top of pasta. 

There are so many other variations, add cream and some freshly chopped herbs for a gorgeous sauce, purée a little and add some homemade chicken or veg stock and some milk and fresh basil for a chunky soup

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 medium green and yellow zucchini, cut at an angle into 5mm rounds

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground

Pinch of chilli flakes

10 basil leaves

10 mint leaves

Zucchini blossoms (if available)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Choose a heavy-bottomed sauté pan that will hold the courgettes comfortably; they shouldn’t come higher than 4cm up the side of the sauté pan.

I like to slice the zucchini and put them in the pan first to check. 

If there are too many layers of zucchini in the pan they will stew and if there are not enough then the zucchini will dry out and burn.

Heat the pan over a high heat and once it is hot, add the oil, quickly followed by the zucchini. Stir, making sure all the zucchini have been coated in the oil, and fry until golden brown. 

Then add the garlic, fennel, and chilli flakes and continue to cook for 5 minutes. 

Season well with salt and pepper. If it’s starting to catch at this stage, add a few tablespoons of water.

Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and stew for 5 to 10 minutes. When the zucchini are soft and tender, tear in the mint and basil leaves and a few zucchini blossoms if you have them. Add 1 tablespoon of your best extra virgin olive oil. 

Season to taste. The zucchini should be soft, juicy and full of flavour, not al dente.

Hot Tips

Bia Rebel Ramen Truck

The Bia Rebel Ramen Truck comes to Ballydehob, parked close to the Michelin starred Chestnut restaurant in the back yard of Levis’ famous Corner House pub. 

Brian Donnelly and Jenny Holland shot to fame in 2018 when they won the Observer Food Monthly Award for ‘best cheap eats’. 

They’ll offer 4 or 5 daily changing dishes including two classic ramen made with homemade noodles and super delicious broth and many good things – open from 5pm until Aug 31st – join the queue.

Food culture course

Diploma in Irish Food Culture at UCC, first of its kind ever, a two year post graduate diploma, research based which will include food and culinary history, food and folklore, food and literature, food and the environment, sustainability, nutrition and health, food policy and a look at the contemporary Irish food system – bursaries are available. 

For details contact UCC.ie

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