27/08/2014 10:05 BST | Updated 26/10/2014 05:59 GMT

How to Successfully Bake Courgettes in the Oven Every Time

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Courgettes (or zucchinis as our friends in the USA call them) are easily prepared and full of health properties, whether it's helping to prevent colon cancer or to sharpen our eyesight. Random fact of the day is that courgettes are actually a fruit because they contain seeds. Not sure if I'd add them to my strawberry and peach fruit salad.

As they are available all the year round (locally grown during the summer and imported during the winter) it makes good sense to know how to cook them and there is no easier option than to bake courgettes in the oven.

Unfortunately courgettes are quite bland and so it can be difficult to get children to eat them as a vegetable. So what I always do is bake courgettes in the oven, stuffed full of tasty and fresh ingredients and suddenly they are turned into the main event. Read on for my fool proof tips on how to bake courgettes in the oven.

First Up: How to Buy Courgettes

Because of the abundance of courgettes on the market at the moment, it is really easy to pick the best tasting and nutritious. Choose courgettes that are approximately 10 - 20 cms in length (4 - 8 inches) and unwaxed (as the wax is just added to preserve the life of the courgette). The bigger the courgettes the more bitter they become, the thicker the skin and the more water they contain. Each courgette should be shiny, blemish free with no cracks or breaks or cuts.

Next: How to Store Courgettes

Fresh courgettes can be stored in the fridge in the bag or in a container for up to 10 days. Unfortunately, because of their high water content, courgettes do not freeze very well. My tip (unless you grow your own) buy courgettes little and often.

Cooked courgettes can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in cling film for up to 2 days.

The Main Event: How to Cook Courgettes in the Oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 180◦c / 350F / Gas Mark 4.
  2. Allow one courgette per adult or ½ per child under 12 years of age (or according to individual appetites).
  3. Wash the courgettes well under warm running water if they are coated in wax, rubbing with a cloth of hands gently without damaging the surface. Cold water is perfect if the courgettes are unwaxed.
  4. Cut in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds. Avoid taking out too much of the flesh.
  5. Place in a lightly greased roasting tin. Lightly brush with olive or rapeseed oil and season lightly. Place in the oven to bake for 10 minutes, until partly cooked.
  6. Fill with your choice of cooked hot ingredients (some great ideas below).
  7. Place back into the oven to completely cook the courgettes and reheat the filling (approximately 15 minutes).
  8. To test that the courgettes are cooked, pierce the skin with the tip of a knife. The knife should break the skin easily and the flesh should feel soft. To test the filling either insert a food thermometer deep into the filling only, the temperature should immediately read 75◦C or should hold 70◦C for 2 minutes. And if you haven't got a food thermometer, here's a quick tip: place a fork into the centre of the filling, remove and gently place on your tongue. It should be really hot, not lukewarm.
  9. Serve immediately

Oven Baked Courgettes Filling Choices

a. Bolognese sauce

b. Chicken, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese

c. Ricotta and / or grated cheddar cheese with diced cooked beetroot