The Currabinny cooks celebrate the courgette

The Currabinny cooks celebrate the courgette
Pictures: Brid O’Donovan

IN the back of the seaside garden in Currabinny, the vegetable patch can prove fickle when it comes to growing certain things. 

We have a little greenhouse for tomatoes and chillies, a good herb border and even a small knotty gooseberry bush which looks older than the house itself, which is saying something as the house was built well over 150 years ago.

The vegetable patch refuses to yield things like asparagus, aubergine, broad beans, peas or even leeks. Courgette, however, has always been very successful and we would often have a huge glut of it. All through the summer, courgette would feature heavily on our table. 

Mostly smallish, creamy fleshed, very green ones which burst with that wonderful taste which would convince anyone thinking courgette lacks flavour. We also sow a few yellow ones which are more delicate but have a wonderful lemony note, perfect for eating raw in a salad.

We do adore the flowers, stuffed and deep fried tempura style but we have rarely tackled them in our own cooking. We are but simple home cooks after all, which of course is no excuse but we tend towards making food as accessible as possible in our little kitchen in Phibsboro. 

Breda (William’s mother), herself an accomplished and ambitious home cook, very lightly pan fries her courgette flowers which are usually stuffed with herbs and cheese.

There are so many different uses for courgettes in the kitchen, but often they are relegated to a filler ingredient, one that adds a little bulk or colour to a pasta dish or soup maybe. The recipes we have included here are ones which we feel celebrate the courgette as the main ingredient. To get the most out of these recipes we urge you to find good organic courgettes which have more flavour and creamier flesh.

The salad especially will benefit from using the best specimens one can find. We used to make this salad in bulk and bring to markets where it went down extremely well. The lemon juice tenderises the courgette ribbons and marinates them, making their flavour intense and satisfyingly savoury while the texture still has bite.

For the two baked recipes, courgette is wonderful with strong salty flavours like cheese and aromatic herbs like thyme, marjoram or rosemary. Don’t be afraid, however, to experiment with other textures and flavours, chopped hazelnuts or almonds work extremely well with courgette as does lemon, tomatoes and capers.

Courgette with Toasted Almonds and Feta

The Currabinny cooks celebrate the courgette

With this salad you are effectively ‘cooking’ the ribbons of courgette in the acid of the lemon juice. This is definitely our favourite way of eating courgette as it retains the bright, summery flavour and crunchy texture.

In the little Currabinny garden, we always grew too many courgettes, this is a different way of eating them and lends itself very well to a hot summer day, eaten swirled around a fork-like pappardelle.

If you cannot find a yellow courgette then just use three green ones.

2 green courgettes

1 yellow courgette (or another green courgette)

1 lemon

1 tbsp of rapeseed oil

200g feta crumbled

Handful of mint leaves, chopped

Handful of basil leaves, chopped

50g almonds, toasted

1 tbsp pink peppercorns

Salt and pepper

Spiralise the courgettes into flat long ribbons. If you don’t own a spiraliser then use a vegetable peeler to peel the courgette into thin ribbons.

In a large bowl, mix the courgette ribbons with a good pinch of salt, the rapeseed oil and the juice of one lemon. Leave for 10 minutes to let the lemon juice ‘cook’ the courgette ribbons.

Crumble the feta into the courgette and add the pink peppercorns, chopped basil and mint.

Put a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the flaked almonds. Keep the almond flakes moving on the pan until they start to turn golden around the edges and you can smell them, around two minutes. Remove the almonds from the pan and add to the salad.

Serve the salad preferably with the almonds still warm.

Courgette filled with Ricotta and Marjoram

The Currabinny cooks celebrate the courgette

Stuffed summer squash or marrow can be a pretty underwhelming thing, lacking in flavour and turning a little watery. 

Courgette is a much better option for stuffing as they have a deeper creamier tasting flesh and thinner skins which allow heat and flavour to permeate better. 

Don’t be afraid to overstuff your courgette halves, this dish isn’t about being delicate. Use good quality breadcrumbs, preferably one you’ve blitzed yourself from good quality stale bread. 

You can of course experiment with panko breadcrumbs which will give you a crunchy, lighter topping. We use marjoram as we like its mild, sweet almost floral aroma but you could use the stronger, punchier oregano or experiment with thyme or even basil or mint.

3 medium courgettes

1 small onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, minced

400g of Ricotta

3 tbsp of grated Parmesan, and more for sprinkling on top

Zest of half a lemon

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

110g of breadcrumbs

3-4 sprigs of marjoram, oregano or thyme

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Line a baking tray with parchment.

Cut the courgette in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds or pulp with a teaspoon or melon baller. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper. In a medium frying pan, cook the onion and garlic with some olive oil until the onion is soft and lightly golden. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, marjoram and egg. Add the onion and garlic mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill the courgette halves with the ricotta mixture and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan.

Place the filled courgette on the baking tray and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the courgette is tender and the tops are nicely browned and melted.

Courgette Gratin with Rosemary and Thyme

The Currabinny cooks celebrate the courgette

We love the strong aroma of rosemary in this dish, and although we may associate the flavours of rosemary and thyme together as a Christmasy or wintertime thing, we strongly believe this dish will prove that theory wrong. 

Even in June we are very likely to have the need for a little comfort and decadence with our food. This dish offers both those things while still being very much of the summer with simple ingredients coming together to form a warming, rich dish without being overly heavy.

600g medium-sized courgettes, sliced into thin ¼inch rounds

1 sprig of rosemary, minced

3-4 sprigs of thyme

100ml of crème fraîche

50ml of single cream

100g of good, hard Irish farmhouse cheese like Cratloe or Cais na Tire

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C.

In an oven-proof frying pan or casserole dish, heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and add the courgette rounds. Sprinkle the herbs over and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat for five to 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, mix together the cream and crème fraîche and season lightly. Pour over the courgette mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese over it and thyme leaves.

Place in the oven for around 30 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and the cheesy top is brown and golden looking. When you take the dish out of the oven, leave for five minutes before serving to allow the mixture to firm up slightly without losing too much heat.

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