Valerie O’Connor is at the start of the courgette glut and this week she foregoes the ubiquitous spiraliser in favour of chuny chips and delicious deep-fried flowers
If anyone is considering a stint without eating meat then this is the time of year to do it.
The grapevine said there wasn’t a burger to be had in the recent hot spell — funny how intense heat makes us want to fire up an outdoor cooking instrument that generates intense heat.
Overhearing a discussion — urban myth I’m sure, that the average frozen burger may contain the meat of over one hundred animals — it’s always better to make your own and I’m still on the harmless hunt for a veggie version that ticks all the boxes. Suggestions on a postcard please...
Having a small patch of ground to grow some vegetables on at this time of year, or any, feels like Christmas every day.
This plot is in a giant glasshouse and some miles away from my house, which is in the concrete metropolis of Limerick city, so I get to it about twice a week, otherwise I’m lucky that it gets watered while I’m away.
During the heat it was almost 40degrees C inside and impossible to do anything there for more than a few minutes.
Yet the squash plants are swelling up their little fruits, the peas just keep on coming and the cucumbers and courgettes are ripe for picking.
Cooking according to what you have been given, compared to deciding what to cook based on what you think you want, is a very different thing.
Think of the past, not so long ago when many of our parents’ generation grew a few things in the back garden.
We had apple trees for years and also followed a vegetable plot that took up a chunk of the back garden where I remember helping my Dad to pull potatoes, as well as the annual tomato project.
You don’t need a glass house or polytunnel to grow food, it just makes it happen sooner and faster. Driving home with my stash of brightly bejeweled rainbow chard, perky young courgettes and a haul of peas, I was excited with ideas of what I would make for dinner.
You need to do little to fresh and delicious, organically-grown produce like this. Everything is bursting with flavour and it’s at its nutritional peak.
The doyenne of food Darina, suggests griddling whole pea pods in a light coating of olive oil and sea salt for two minutes so that’s what I did, with a companionship of courgette slices, thickly cut and lightly oiled, this is the best way to cook them.
The chard was roughly cut and added to the pan for a minute and then I tossed the lot through some spaghetti and squeezed over some fresh lemon — and we brought our food outside for a rare al fresco dinner in the back yard.
Texture and variety are important in food and this is where the beautiful courgette flower comes in.
If you have a couple of courgette plants you should be getting flowers by now, this is the most exciting part of the plant.
You will notice that there are two types of flowers; the male flowers are attached to just a stalk (unsurprisingly) while the female flowers are attached to the edible fruit.
Usually, these fall off at some point and it is advised to leave them alone as they aid in the maturing of the fruit.
Pick fresh and wide open male flowers, or the young whole fruit and flower of the female.
Cook them by simply dipping them in a seasoned light batter and deep frying in hot light sunflower oil, until crisp, this will take only a minute and they taste delicious, crisp yet juicy.
Italians like to stuff them with ricotta and herbs, while the Greeks naturally favour feta.
This recipe if foolproof and with a certain wow factor too, the cornflour ensures they are extra crispy while the fizzy water keeps the batter really light.
Stuffed Courgette Flowers
For the batter
Make the batter by sieving the flours together and whisking in the fizzy water.
Heat up the oil in a pan big enough to take a couple of flowers at a time.
Gently tear long pieces from the mozzarella, season with a little salt and stuff some into each flower, twist the tops of the flowers gently to seal them up.
Dip each flower into the batter, shaking off any excess and drop them carefully into the hot oil one by one, cooking them for 2-3 minutes.
Scoop them out of the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
When all the flowers are cooked, serve them up with a drizzling of dressing.
A cool glass of white is a must here, or a nice sparkling elderflower fizz.
Easy Courgette Chunky Chips
Why fill up on useless starch when you can have amazing courgette chips instead?
I use chickpea flour to make a light batter with fizzy water and a little salt.
Simply whisk equal quantities together and season.
Heat up your oil and cut larger courgettes into chip shaped chunks.
Dip these in the batter, shake and then fry the chips in the oil in batches, removing the cooked ones to drain while you carry on.
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