Michelle Darmody: Using courgettes in summer recipes before they spoil

With the recent sunshine, many courgettes may now have swollen into marrows. If you grow your own you will know the feeling, searching for ways to use this excess of large vegetables before they begin to spoil.

Michelle Darmody: Using courgettes in summer recipes before they spoil

With the recent sunshine, many courgettes may now have swollen into marrows. If you grow your own you will know the feeling, searching for ways to use this excess of large vegetables before they begin to spoil.

Pickles and chutneys are always handy ways of preserving but you can also bake with courgettes or marrows. They contain a high percentage of water so are great for adding moisture into cakes.

If you are baking with very large marrows it is best to take out the seeds as they are chewier than the ones found in smaller courgettes and will change the texture of your baking. Also if the skin is very tough it is best to peel it before grating.

To keep courgette crops producing to their optimum it is good to harvest three times a week. Each harvest will encourage new growth. Use a very sharp knife of secateurs to cut the courgettes at the base and make sure not to wrench them off with your hands as the plant may get damaged. I think they are ideal when they are about 10in in length.

When I went to work in an American bakery during my college years I was very excited to hear about this new vegetable called zucchini which the baker was adding into a large batch of muffins.

I soon discovered it was that old faithful courgette. The buns turned out delicious and I have made variations of them in the intervening years.

The recipe included here is for mini muffins but you can bake larger ones with the same recipe if you wish.

Make sure to bake them for longer. Once a skewer comes out clean and the tops are golden they are done.

The preparation-style of courgette cakes tends to be similar to carrot cake or loaf. The chocolate cake featured here is a little different.

It is a rich and moist chocolate cake. A friend gave me the recipe recently and it is nice to be able to use the courgettes in a different way.

Chocolate and Courgette Cake with Ganache

60g of cocoa powder

340g of self-raising flour

Half tsp of fine sea salt

175mls of sunflower oil

360g of golden caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

500ml of grated courgette

50g of dark chocolate chips

80g of hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

To decorate

150ml of cream

150g of dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 180 degrees and line 9in spring form or loose base round cake tin.

Sieve the cocoa, flour and sea salt into a large bowl. Add in the oil, sugar, eggs and courgette and combine completely. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then place onto a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling heat the cream to shivering over a gentle heat. Stir in the chocolate chips and remove it from heat.

Allow this to cool as well. Once both the cake and ganache are cool, spread the ganache onto the cake.

Courgette Egg Tart

300g of plain flour

Half tsp of fine sea salt

150g of cold butter, cubed

About 2 tbs of cold water

For the filling

3 eggs

A small bunch of tarragon,

very finely chopped

100 mls of creme fraiche

2 tsp of grated nutmeg

100g of cheddar cheese, grated

A medium courgette, sliced lengthwise into strips

Heat oven to 180C and grease and flour a 9in tart case. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl.

Rub butter into flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Using a fork to add the water to bring the pastry together.

You may need to add a little more to bind the mixture. Cover the pastry with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least a half an hour.

Grease and flour your tart case. Roll out the pastry into a circle larger than the case, put parchment paper on top of the pastry and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and place back in the oven for a further five minutes to brown slightly.

To make the filling beat the eggs, tarragon, nutmeg and creme fraiche. Stir in the cheddar cheese and season.

Scoop the mixture into your tart cases. And lay the courgette slices on top. Bake at 180C for half an hour until the mixture is cooked through.

Allow to cool completely in the tin.

Mini Vegetable Muffins

40g of courgette, grated

40g of carrot, grated

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4 tbs of milk

2 tbs of olive oil

1 tsp of mixed cake spice

150g of self raising flour

10g of ground almonds

30g of muscovado sugar

Heat your oven to 200C and place cases into a mini-muffin tin.

Mix the courgette, carrot, egg, milk and oil. Sieve the cake spice into the flour, almonds and stir in the sugar.

Combine the two mixtures and scoop into the mini-muffin cases.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then place onto a wire rack.

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