It is the first week of August and our second summer here at La Girouette is in full swing. We learnt a lot from our first summer in the potager (veg garden) but, despite my decision to plant a LOT less courgette seeds, we have been harvesting about 2.5 kg of them a day for the last month or so. This abundance is fantastic but poses a bit of a challenge because there are only so many courgette that 2 people can eat. We have given many to our immediate neighbours here in the hameau (hamlet) and swapping season has been very fruitful for us – excuse the pun. In return for our courgettes so far we have received from the neighbours dozens of eggs, cherries, peaches, haricots and cucumbers. It is such a joyful experience to connect with our neighbours in this way and it really helps to make us feel part of this little 6 house community.
My body just loves eating food which was grown less than 10 metres from the table we eat it at and is eaten within 30 mins of harvest. Sadly courgette can’t be frozen (apart from once already cooked as in cake or soup) and if you leave medium sized ones on the plant overnight they can turn into monsters like these ones which Delilah is lying beside to give you a size comparison. She is in between springer spaniel and setter size!
So I decided to set myself a culinary challenge to find as many really delicious new ways of using courgette as possible. It has been quite amazing how we have managed to eat at least one meal a day based on courgette for over a month now and still be trying new dishes, many of them seriously tasty. I have become an advocate for the much overlooked courgette and hopefully, if you try some of the recipes in this blog, you will grow to love them as much as we now do.
The first (and our most loved) recipe is for Courgette and Raisin (or Cranberry) Tea Loaf. I make nearly one a day at the moment because you can freeze them so I am using the courgettes up and storing up for the winter months. The real challenge is getting them into the freezer before Eoin gets to them! This is a slightly modified version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Pumpkin and Raisin Tea Loaf from his excellent VEG cookbook which I use a lot. Click here to check out the book. I add some desiccated coconut and use cranberries instead of the raisins for variety and a slightly sweeter taste. It is a reasonably simple recipe once you get the hang of it and, so far, I have found it to be very consistent in its results. In fact, I have one in the oven as I type this! Click here to read the recipe and I hope you enjoy eating it as much as we do. BTW this is NOT a healthy option and does, sadly, include flour and sugar. If anyone comes up with a healthier version then please let me know.
One of the most important pieces of kitchen equipment for dealing with your courgette glut is a spiraliser. I couldn’t manage without mine and it allows me to whip up incredible courgettini in less than a minute. My own only cost £20 and has been working really well for me for a few years now. Check it out here.
Once you have a spiraliser you can make things like Jamie Oliver’s delicious Lemony Prawn Courgettini and Lemony Courgette Linguini (although personally I don’t bother with the linguini and just make some courgettini with my spiraliser then add in the mint, parmesan and lemon for a super simple summer lunch). We also have a lot of basil growing at the moment so my other favourite thing to do with spiralised courgettini is simple to blitz up up a delicious pesto, gently warm the courgettini in a large frying pan then mix the pesto through. So simple yet so yummy.
This afternoon I made up 4 litres of Courgette, Leek and Goat’s Cheese soup which also freezes well in batches so I can defrost it and we can taste some summer during cold winter days! With fresh basil leaves and some toasted pumpkin seeds on top it is makes a bowl of velvety deliciousness.
Of course, summer wouldn’t be summer without lots of gorgeous risottos made from all the fresh veg and herbs in the garden. It is especially good when you also make your own stock with veg off-cuts which you can freeze until you have enough to make up a litre or two of stock. Risotto is one of my specialities so I tend not to use a recipe but I have tried these three for you and they are great – Courgette & Lemon Risotto, Tomato & Courgette Risotto and Summer Courgette Risotto. Making a good risotto requires focus and patience but it is so worth the wait and I like to use it as part of my meditation practice.
Then there are the salads. Oh the salads we have eaten this summer already! So much goodness and nutrition on one plate. It leaves the mouth and the body tingling with aliveness. We had our French/Polish neighbours round for dinner last week and they were bowled over by these Courgettes with Mint & Ricotta which I served alongside freshly dug boiled potatoes and some barbecued tuna. This Shaved Fennel, Courgette and Orange salad is simple but excellent as is this Zingy Courgette and Spinach Salad.
That brings me on to the show stopper so far this summer which is Potato, Courgette and Goat’s Cheese Tart. It is a labour of love and a little complicated but we just adore it. Personally, I don’t use the pastry included in the recipe because I favour one of my own pastry recipes but I am sure it is good anyway. This keeps well and is equally as good for a second meal the next day (if there is any left!).
I have also made and frozen batches of these Courgette & Feta Fritters which you can find in this cookbook which is one of my favourites by the lovely guys at the Happy Pear who inspire me so much. Check out all their books along with several other of my favourites here. These Sweetcorn Courgette Fritters are also very tasty (especially with the sweet chilli sauce) but I prefer the Happy Pear ones.
And last, but not least, is this incredibly rich Chocolate Courgette Cake. I have only made it once but I will try it again and will only make half quantities because it is very big and we could only manage a small slice at a time. It needs some vanilla ice-cream to cut through the richness but it has potential and I am determined to master it.
This week I will be trying another Happy Pear recipe for the first time because my two nephews are coming to stay and they love a good cake so I will be serving them up Lemon Curd and Courgette Cake. I will also be trying these Veggie ‘Meat’balls and, now that our tomatoes are starting to redden, we will be enjoying Courgette & Tomato Soup.
I hope this all gives you some food for thought and inspires you. If you have any of your own favourite courgette recipes then please do share a link in the comments box.