Courgettes are part of the squash and marrow family, they are available all year round but are particularly good in the summer. When buying courgette, look for smaller, younger ones as these will have the best flavour. They should be mild in flavour, unblemished skin, firm to hold and have a vibrant colour, whether they are green or yellow.
It is still terribly difficult to find courgettes sold with their tender flower still attached, which is a shame but understandable as they only last a day or so before collapsing and shrivelling up.
If you are lucky enough to grow your own courgettes, make sure you make use of these delicate blossoms by stuffing them with ricotta and dipping them in the saltiest, lightest tempura batter and frying them in oil.
It is also a shame that courgettes seem to be sold when they are quite mature, their very largeness diluting their already mild flavour into something altogether a bit flaccid. We think they should be sold when the fruits are of a tender age, being barely the size of a finger but incredibly flavoursome, almost creamy.
This isn’t to say that larger ones are completely useless, you could bake them slowly in plenty of olive oil, herbs and garlic or else as we like to do, make a sublimely delicious preserve or pickle.
They are in their nature, a mild, delicately flavoured thing -they are 90 percent water-. They are often dismissed as being bland or without flavour but we think they just need a little help from some complimentary elements such as lemon, garlic, fresh herbs and sea salt.
The following recipes are our attempt to showcase the courgette as a main ingredient vegetable rather than just something that is easy to chop and throw in to a dish. When used in the right way their subtle flavour and crisp texture can hold its own amongst the very best, most evocative summer eating experiences.
This is a simple technique for enhancing the delicate qualities of courgette into something bursting with summer flavours of lemon, thyme and garlic. Use a good quality olive oil for this and feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices. The preserved courgette or ‘confit’ should be packed tightly into a sterilised jar and kept in the fridge where it should last a good two weeks. We put this into sandwiches or atop bagels spread thickly with cream cheese. It is also perfect to have alongside a cheese and charcuterie platter.
- 600g of courgette
- Juice of two large lemons
- 200ml of extra virgin olive oil
- Good pinch of sea salt
- A few sprigs of thyme
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
Half the courgettes lengthways and cut into 1cm thick slices. Place a large saucepan or casserole on the hob. Put the olive oil, lemon juice and 150ml of water in the pot and place on a medium high heat. Add the courgette, thyme, rosemary and cloves of garlic, bringing it to the boil before reducing the heat to a low simmer. Add the fennel seeds and sea salt and cover with a lid.
Cook for 30 minutes until the courgettes are soft. Remove the lid and simmer gently for another 30 minutes, the liquid with reduce significantly so make sure to stir the contents regularly with a wooden spoon to avoid anything sticking to the bottom.
After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and transfer the courgette, along with any liquid to sterilised jars. Leave to cool before placing in the fridge.
Grilled Summer Salad
This recipe could not be more simple. Simply grill some gorgeous summer vegetables (in this case courgette and red onion) and pair it with crumbly, salty feta, good olive oil, garlic along with some herbs and spices. A warm summer salad like this is perfect for a lazy summer evening when you want something light but still filling and packed full of flavour. This can be made inside on a hot griddle or alternatively you can always do the grilling outside on a barbecue.
- 2 medium courgette (one green, one yellow)
- 1 medium red onion
- 200g of good quality feta
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Good pinch of seasalt
- 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
- 120ml of extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of basil leaves, torn or shredded
- Good pinch of red pepper or chilli flakes
Cut the courgette into oblong slices and the red onion into 8 wedges. Make a quick marinade by whisking together 100ml of olive oil, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar and the crushed garlic, along with a small pinch of sea salt.
Place a griddle pan on a medium high heat until very hot, add the rest of the olive oil before placing the courgette on the hot griddle and season with salt and pepper. Cook both sides until tender and showing black marks from the grill. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the red onion to the hot griddle and cook until tender and slightly charred.
Arrange the grilled courgette and red onion on a serving platter, crumble the feta over and drizzle with the marinade. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes over, and garnish with freshly torn basil leaves.
We love any quick loaf made with good buttermilk and bread soda. This particular loaf is densely packed with grated courgette and strong cheddar cheese. The flavours here might seem a little heavy and wintery even, but trust us, the resulting loaf is actually perfectly summery with the flavours of courgette, spring onion and basil coming through. Make sure you get as much moisture out of the courgette as possible before adding it to the mix. The more moisture you get out, the more courgette you can actually get into the bread. We like to challenge ourselves by considering the grated courgette as one of the dry ingredients rather than wet. If you can add the courgette to the flour and raising agents without making the whole thing wet, then you have done it right.
- 2-3 medium courgettes, grated
- 2 teaspoons of sea salt
- 125g cream flour
- 125g of wholewheat spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of bread soda
- 4 spring onions, sliced thinly
- 30g basil, shredded
- 150g strong cheddar, grated
- 3 large eggs
- 170ml of buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the grated courgette into a colander and sprinkle a generous amount of salt over it, rubbing it into the grated courgette. Leave it for around 40 minutes, where it will leach out most of its moisture. After the 40 minutes, squeeze out as much moisture with your hands before placing in between two kitchen towels and pressing down firmly to get any excess moisture out.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, bread soda and sea salt. Add the dried out courgette to the dry mixture mixing it through. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs and pour into the dry ingredients, mixing together to form a wet dough. Stir through the cheddar cheese, basil and spring onions before pouring the batter into lined loaf tins. Do not over fill the loaf tins as they will rise considerably. Bake for a good 45 minutes, until quite brown. Make sure they are cooked all the way through before taking out, leaving stand in the tins for around 15 minutes before tipping them out and leaving to cool on a wire wrack.