There's really no need to grow courgettes. If you have friends who grow veg then you'll almost certainly be begged to take some off their hands at this time of year. Walk past any allotment in August and you're likely to see a pile of marrows, homeless, accompanied by a little cardboard sign, "please help yourself". Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if you were approached in the street by total strangers desperate to foist courgettes into your hand. Gluts of this magnitude make you do funny things.
I've written about previous courgette mountains here and here. This year's glut is no different. Except that, thanks to the warm and wet June, they are even more prolific than normal. They also seem to grow with almost super-natural speed in these conditions. One day, a beautiful little courgette; the next day, a marrow. Still, the pigs and chickens are very happy with the situation being, as they are, marrow addicts.
Despite the seemingly endless supply of courgettes, using them never feels like a chore and I'm yet to run out of ideas. That's the wonderful thing about courgettes: they are so tasty and so versatile that recipes are never hard to conjure up. I've got 3, yes 3, for you today:
Courg' and Cuke Cream Cheese Dip
This is a cracker for kids lunch boxes.
1 small cucumber (that's a whole other glut story...)
1 medium courgette
1 tbsp salt
250g tub full fat cream cheese
200g creme fraiche
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tbsp chopped mint
Grate the cucumber and courgette and put them in a sieve. Sprinkle over the salt, mix well, then leave to sit over a bowl for 15 minutes so the water drains out. I recommend squeezing the mixture every so often to help drive out the liquid.
In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, creme fraiche, lime juice, zest and chopped mint. Add the drained, grated vegetables and stir it all together. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed (you'll be surprised how much salt it needs). Serve with crudités, flatbreads etc.
I'm a massive fan of stuffed courgettes. People can get a bit snooty about them: only fit only for the 1970s or old men with allotments and string to keep their trousers up and all that. Wrong. They are tasty, quick and pleasingly neat on the plate. This year I planted Tondo di Nizza with the express intention of stuffing them. They are cricket ball sized and perfectly spherical so ideal for the purpose.
2 Tondo di Nizza courgettes
slug sunflower oil
glug of olive oil
8-10 cherry tomatoes (that's another impending glut right there, but one for another day)
handful grated parmesan
1tbsp chopped basil (ditto the tomatoes)
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Slice the top off the courgette (like a hat), scoop out the fleshy middle and discard it. This, I find, is generally full of seeds anyway so doesn't make for brilliant eating. Drizzle the inside and out with sunflower oil, season and pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes after which time the courgette should be soft but still holding its shape. You may find you need to drain some watery juices out of the middle when they're done.
Meanwhile, finely dice the onion, mushrooms and tomatoes and sweat gently in a little olive oil for at least 15 minutes. They should be soft and yielding but not in the least bit browned. The tomatoes will have released their liquid too making a tasty juice.
Remove from the heat. Roughly chop the salami, tear the mozzarella and add them to the pan together with half the parmesan and all the basil. Give it all a good stir and season to taste.
Remove the courgettes from the oven if you haven't already. Stuff each courgette with the mixture right to the top. Scatter over the remaining parmesan and return to the oven for 20 minutes until the mozzarella has melted and the parmesan on top is golden brown.
This lovely summery tart, pictured above, is ideal for a crowd. It's basically a veg patch version of a quiche Lorraine. The ever efficient Delia Smith explains how to make it nice and neatly here. However, I rough it up a bit by replacing the gruyere with cheddar chunks, omitting the bacon and adding a handful of chopped herbs (parsley, basil, anything leafy and green will do). I then pour the mix into the cooled pastry case and carefully place slices of gently fried courgette and a few raw tomatoes into the egg mixture. If you can do this without submerging the slices then you'll achieve that pleasing finish in the picture. Thicker slices make this easier. Cook as instructed by Delia then serve at room temperature whilst surveying your courgette mountain.
Images credit: Kathy Slack.
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