Showing posts with label Courgette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Courgette. Show all posts

31 Jul 2014

Busting a Glut ...

I'm seeing a lot of courgette gluts being mentioned on gardening blogs at the moment. Trust me, I've been there but this year have neatly side-stepped that trap by having slugs eat my spare courgette plant and only having one to harvest.  I'm not counting my Ikea courgette growing experiment, more of which in another post. (Which means I'm posting backwards, I think.)

When faced with a daily deluge of courgettes, it's easy to begin to feel slightly overwhelmed at the challenge of appreciating all this bounty. I have a number of recipe books in my kitchen to turn to as well as coming across some nice glut-busting ideas on the internet and in magazines.  I thought a round up might be in order.

In  my own kitchen I turn to Dr Hessayon's Garden to Kitchen Expert, Sarah Raven books, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Every Day and Nigel Slater's Tender Vol One (the veg one). Last night, I cooked the ratatouille (minus the aubergine but with lots of courgettes- fruit, baby leaves and stems) from Kitchen Garden Experts, teamed it with a Mary Berry beef mince sauce and sandwiched it all together with lasagne sheets. Delicious.

On the internet, I thought the following all sounded worth a shot:

From Faith Wallinger writing for The Atlantic:
  • Chop the male and female flowers and sauté in olive oil with finely chopped garlic for a pasta sauce or risotto flavouring. 
  • A Sicilian dish: Stew the tender young leaves with garlic, courgette chunks and courgette flowers. (I'm thinking some tomatoes would be nice with this.)
  • Courgette carpaccio recipe here.  (Thinly sliced raw, drizzled with olive oil, topped with parmesan.)
  • Stuff the flowers with ricotta, layer into a non-stick pan, drizzle with olive oil, cover with a lid and steam/fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes. The steam from the ricotta will cook the flowers. Season and serve.

From Veg Box: Lemon Butter Courgettes.  Plot to plate in less than 15 minutes. Butter, lemon, olive oil, courgette. Simples.

From the BBC Good Food website:
A courgette and caraway cake with apple flavoured cream cheese frosting and caramelised oat topping. Now, be honest, if you saw this on a stand in a café, you'd want a slice wouldn't you? I know I would! This cake is from chef Valentine Warner; It looks, and probably is, delicious. I make a fantastic pork and barley stew by this same chef; on that criteria, I'd say he knows how to make really tasty stuff.

Courgette and caraway cake. Image courtesy of BBC Good Food website.
Roasted vegetables (including courgettes or whatever else you may have lurking) from that queen of the kitchen, Mary Berry. Actually, this is a great end of week meal to throw over couscous or rice and to use up all the veg in the fridge before a Saturday shop.

Sweet stuffed courgette flowers.  Initially this looks like a right faff but, oh my goodness, I bet these are beyond yummy! A recipe by John Torode (the grumpy one from Masterchef), wherein he stuffs courgette flowers with a crème pâtissière, coats with a light batter, fries them, then rolls them in cinnamon sugar. A bit like 'healthy' custard doughnuts, eh?  Recipe also includes a boozy raspberry syrup - I'm not sure these fritters would last that long in my kitchen.

Sauté potato and courgette.  Quick and a delicious side, or a meal in itself with an egg on top, but note this recipe serves only one. Personally, and I don't know what this says about me, I could easily eat three times this. You'll need potato, courgette, garlic, oil, a few herbs, seasoning … and a fork. This is my kind of food.

Citrus and courgette ribbon salad.  Garden ingredients are salad onions, courgettes, parsley plus lemon, walnuts and olive oil. Add a glass of chilled Prosecco, some warm evening sunshine, a table in the garden and who needs to go on holiday?

Courgette pancakes with spiced greek yogurt.  Goodness, is there no end to the versatility of this vegetable! This is lovely finger food - roll them up and dip away! I guess any children might have to get over not finding chocolate and banana in their pancakes but would soon get over it if a variety of dips and toppings were on offer.

There's heaps more to inspire on the BBC website.

And if the blighters do start to get the better of you, there's always Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Glutney, a fantastic way to preserve and eke out those delicious summer flavours.  That link also has Slow-cooked courgettes on toast and a courgette moussaka. Unsurprisingly, my thoughts are veering towards snacking on courgettes and toast for lunch tomorrow.

There, that should keep us all going. Actually, I'm beginning to wish I'd grown a couple more plants… I could do with a glut after reading all those recipes.

Edited to add:  Sue at Green Lane Allotments has a page of delicious courgette recipes that can be found on her blog here

24 Nov 2012

Sub-Arctic, Canadian Wonder and Striped Pyjamas


Abundance is not the word I'd reach for when describing the past year's veg successes. It's been more a little taste of this and that when the weather has obliged. In choosing my 2012 veg, I envisaged a nice prolonged warm summer (like last year) with the right conditions for tomatoes, chillies, sweetcorn, squashes, courgettes and exotic pulses such as LabLab beans and purple podded peas.  Foiled (or fooled?) again!

My sweetcorn grew but the cobs didn't fatten, the fennel has seeded itself all over the garden thanks to high winds, peas and pole beans amounted to nothing much.

On the other hand, the Canadian Wonder (red kidney) beans that I ordered have been a triumph; they produced a huge number of slim pods over a long period so that I had plenty to give to friends and neighbours. I picked the pods young (about 3 - 6 inches long) for eating - they were delicious.  I had hoped to grow several plants for mature pods so that I could save the kidney beans over winter (I love a good bean stew or chillied beans) but it didn't happen. I guess much more warmth was needed for that.

~ Canadian Wonder beans, late August 2012~
Most of my courgettes rotted before they grew much more than a few inches high - apart from the Sicilian Long White on my balcony :)  but a spaghetti squash planted close to the wall struggled through to September when it was rewarded with a few weeks of warmer weather. That did the trick nicely and it went on to produce several huge squashes, the biggest weighing nearly 3 kilos, probably enough to feed at least 6 people! Is that a big achievement? It certainly felt like it to me.  I chose this vegetable purely for it's name - Striped Squash Pyjamas. Sometimes a total lack of logic is best.

~Spaghetti squash: Striped Pyjamas ~
My tomatoes were very deliberately chosen - Sub Arctic Plenty.  Touted as fruiting within 9 weeks of planting and being able to set fruit in cooler conditions, surely this was the tomato for me!  It didn't, however, live up to expectations, producing only a couple of dozen tomatoes between the 2 surviving plants - and those after several months of nurturing. I blame the weather.  It's a lovely looking tomato though, like a small beefsteak and with a very good flavour, thin-skinned and lovely squiggly insides - I'll be growing this one again in 2013 and hoping the weather is kinder. (All my veg are grown outside and at the mercy of whatever the weather may thrown at them.)  Incidentally, the other two seed choices, Red Alert and Principe Borghese, either didn't grow or didn't fruit. What a year!

Tomatoes sliced
~ Sub-Arctic Plenty. Very pretty determinate tomato. ~
I also had a bonus tomato plant in the patch, grown from the seed of one of last year's dropped Cherriettes of Fire tomatoes.  This time, knowing its dendency to droop, I potted the little found plant into a large pot where it flourished to produce lots of very late mini tomatoes. Even now in November, I'm still able to pick a small handful from this plant although it's now on the way out.

Cherriettes of fire
~ Cherriettes of Fire, tiny cherry tomatoes ~
So what about next year?  I'm thinking only about the vegetables I buy in quantity:  purple sprouting broccoli, beans, squashes, beetroot, blueberries, raspberries and, of course, plenty of herbs and edible flowers. Potatoes break up the soil and carrots take up very little space if grown in tubs but both are cheap to buy, as are onions (but I've already bought white onion sets). I'll grow lots more salad leaves on my balcony (far far away from those pesky slugs!) and broad beans (red flowered, hopefully) as they get the season off to a good start.  As to varieties, I'm already reading through the catalogues to see what's new, thinking about weather protection for my crops and dreaming of a greenhouse.

5 Aug 2011

Tempura, tempura!

At this time of year, as the tempo of the garden increases, it can feel a bit overwhelming to deal with the sheer volume of produce that is hurled at us after months of hard work.  A glut of produce can turn to repetition in the kitchen and boredom at the supper table.  I was heading in that direction myself with my courgettes - in pasta, or meat sauces, stir fried, roasted, sliced, chopped, grated. Hoping for culinary inspiration, I nipped over to visit my friend who runs our local deli.  Actually, it was his quest for courgette flowers last summer which had motivated me to plant them in the veg patch in the first place.

He took a dozen flowers from me.  A few were returned the following day, stuffed (with ricotta, parmesan, chives and pancetta), ready to be battered and fried but I had to do this myself.  The recipe given to me was so loose it would have given even Jamie Oliver (with his pinch of this, dash of that) cause for alarm.  I googled and I read, then I got on with it.  The batter was simple, the oil not too deep, the results delicious, although slightly rich for my taste.

I had some extra flowers so, fired up with enthusiasm, I made some more, this time with a simpler filling (ricotta and herbs). For me, that was more like it. The result was sensational: the initial crunch gave way to the softness of the filling, the last bite being the sweet, crisp and juicy courgette sepals or flower base. These would be impressive served for a special lunch but why wait?  I think it's worth making them for a summer supper.

The simple batter I made was an amalgamation of two recipes. Some batters use an egg, some use beer or wine instead of cold water. Others don't use an egg, fearing that this makes the batter too heavy but balance is everything and you find your own preference.  For the stuffing, it seems there are endless variations on this particular theme; I've found potato and greens, meat, cheeses and herby rice.  If you have Mark Diacono's Veg Patch (River Cottage Handbook No. 4) you'll find that he stuffs the flowers with the chopped and sautéed courgettes themselves!

I'm quite taken with the idea of battered veg, and I've read of applying this way of cooking to the unstuffed flowers but why stop at courgettes?  I haven't tried it (yet) but I think that the same principle could be applied to pea pods, mange tout, baby carrots and baby corn although courgette flowers visually steal the show.

Fried flowers may not be to everyone's taste but don't let that stop you from making the most of your courgette flowers:  I've found plenty of other ways of using courgette flowers on this Australian website.

However, if you'd like to try fried flowers for yourself, here's the batter recipe I used, found in the Telegraph's 'Jamie Oliver At Home' - it's a light eggless batter and I used white wine because I just happened to have an open bottle sitting nicely chilled in the fridge:

200g self-raising flour
350 ml sparkling water - or use a decent white wine
A good pinch of salt

Put the flour in a bowl and gradually whisk in the liquid until it's the consistency of double cream.  If too thin, add more flour; too thick, add liquid.  It should nicely coat a dipped finger.

Prepare your filling (Jamie Oliver suggests adding grated nutmeg, parmesan, chopped mint, lemon zest and chopped chillies to 200g of ricotta).  Gently prise open the flowers and, using a teaspoon or piping bag, fill the courgette and carefully twist the top of the flower to seal it. Repeat with all flowers.  Pour oil into a pan up to a depth of about 8 cm. Heat the oil (sunflower is best) to around 180 C - if you don't have a sugar thermometer, drop a piece of potato or bread into the oil; when it turns golden, your oil is ready.

Holding each stuffed flower by the stem (or bottom for female flowers), dip it into the batter and carefully transfer to the hot oil. (Don’t fry more than two flowers at a time or the oil temperature will drop.)  Fry for about a minute (you’ll be able to see when it’s done as it will turn golden and crisp). You may need to turn it in the oil to cook both sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper. (I used a silicon spoon which works just as well.) Serve as soon as possible, with lemon wedges and a lovely salad.

31 Jul 2011

Saturday Snap: Beauty among the Beasts

Beauty and the beast

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Zucchini Chop, an exercise in removing unnecessary leaves from my courgette plants to direct energy to the fruit.  Since then I've enjoyed a daily exhibition of beautiful new flowers and tender leaves emerging to protect the fruit while the remaining leaves have swiftly grown to fill the gap left after the cutback.  The plants now stand proud, healthy and large once more in their space - a dual edged sword as it happens.  On the plus side, children are reluctant to race down the narrow path in the middle of the veg patch for fear of scratching their shins but, not so good, is that smaller children (the under-5s) are less able to easily access the beds for watering, a task they like to help with.  I think it may be time for a few more leaves to come off!

The above photo was actually taken in the evening. I like to just have a little meander round, check on the progress of recent sowings (peas, parsley, carrots all growing well), perhaps pick a few sweet peas or sample a raspberry or two (autumn raspberries just coming into fruit) or munch a freshly picked spinach leaf. I intend to make some more stuffed fried courgette flowers (absolutely delicious, more on this with recipe in the next post) so was counting the flowers that were ready for this. Peering through the larger leaves, this beauty caught my eye, it's yellow petals singing out, the dusk light lending an almost purple tinge to the soil below. I think this may be one of my favourite snaps! (I do love my veg.)

Some tips with today's Saturday Snap:

1) Identifying courgette flowers:  male flowers are long and slender on a slim stalk, almost like a rose.  Female flowers are the ones that make the courgettes and have plumper flowers on a chubbier stem. The female stem looks like it will become a courgette; in some cases the slender courgette can be picked with the flower still attached and the whole thing battered and quickly fried. Delicious.

2) Encouraging more fruit: It's essential to leave some male flowers; without them, bees have no pollen to carry across to the female flowers. It's this act that pollinates the flower, causing the courgette fruit to form.

3) Photographing veg:  evening light - if you catch it right - is so much more forgiving than harsh middle of the day sunlight. The midday sun creates hard shadows and burnt out texture in photos;  however great the subject may look to the naked eye, I'm always disappointed with the results if I photograph in strong light. The veg patch is shaded by late afternoon and the last of the day's sun is sometimes reflected back onto the veg by being bounced off nearby windows. This is a perfect time (around 6 - 7pm) in the summer to take photos.

20 Jul 2011

When it rains, it pours


I've been very lucky with the weather over the past few days; having been out to sow more seeds, the skies have obliged with a generous watering.  When I've needed courgette flowers, the sun has warmed the plant, the bees have appeared and fruits formed.  During a trip to the farm yesterday, we strolled in warm sunshine and I was able to take some Lemon Balm cuttings from their wild growing clumps. Safely back indoors, it rained during the afternoon.  Going out to pick sweet peas in the evening (having been told that picking encourages more flowers), I noticed that the nasturtiums were studded with diamonds!  Raindrops glittered on the waxy leaves and this water, puddled in the centre of a leaf, twinkled brightly like a large glass drop.

Even better, just as I was turning to go home, a bee buzzed along straight into an open female courgette flower to pollinate it!  Not a great photo, but lovely to see the bee doing his work and a magical moment to end the visit on.

Pollinating courgette flower

Today:  if the rain holds off, a bit of weeding and pruning is on the cards for me! Fingers crossed and happy gardening!

18 Jul 2011

The Zucchini Chop

This is my first year of growing courgettes so I was thrilled to see the plants flourishing in the few short weeks after planting out, although the way their magnificent but prickly leaves overspill onto the paths through the patch is slightly daunting.

Veg Patch view, July 2011

As I watered around the veg patch on Friday evening, my Zimbabwean neighbour (who has a wealth of experience in veg growing) came over for a chat.  The common names of plants often differ between our countries and he was curious about the courgettes.  Having established what the plant was, he told me that in his country the whole plant would be eaten: flowers, stems, leaves, fruit.  Surely the leaves are too spiny for that?  Not at all, apparently they soften in cooking.  My plants, however, had been insufficiently watered (guilty as charged, although the weekend deluge will have rectified that) and the stems were too tough.  He demonstrated by cutting a lower leaf close to the stem and peeling back the strings.  The stalk was hollow and the flesh rigid; if it had been tender, he would have saved it from the compost heap and taken it home to be eaten, although the best leaves are further up the stem.  So, lesson one:  courgettes need lots of water.

There was further advice. "The plant is having to share the food between the fruit and the leaves. You do not need the leaves near the ground."  Well, that made sense to me.  So, knife in hand, I sliced where I was directed to and leaf after giant leaf came away.  Soil was revealed (enough to sow some quick radishes or shaded spinach), air could circulate around the plants, sweetcorn was rediscovered and an achievement shared.  Really, an enjoyable, companionable, useful and educational evening where another curve of the learning spiral was successfully negotiated.

This is the 'after' shot:

Courgette, pruned

If I'd thought about it, I should have used the same angle to take the photo. Sorry, but I hope this will illustrate nicely the after-effects of the (rather drastic) chop. Does anyone else do this? And has it worked for you? I'd love to know!
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