French flavour of the season – courgettes
Chef Chris Lacey shares tips and ideas to enjoy this potager staple.
“In mid to late summer those of us that grow our own vegetables ask ourselves why we put in so many courgette plants! I propose to give you all some ideas of how to use up your courgettes, also known as zucchini. If you are not gardeners don’t worry as they are really inexpensive in the shops and you might like to try some of my ideas. I hope they inspire you!”
The first thing to do is freeze some for winter. You can make up dishes such as courgettes provençal or ratatouille but I prefer to freeze them ‘au natural’ and make up the dishes as required. To freeze successfully, you first need to blanch them. Slice and put into a saucepan of boiling water on the stove. When the water comes back to the boil use an accurate timer and allow them to remain in the water for 1 minute. Immediately drain and plunge into a bowl of iced water for another 2 minutes. Pat dry with kitchen towel and freeze in suitable quantities.
An old favourite is to scoop out the vegetables, fill them with cooked bolognaise sauce, top them with grated cheese and bake them in the oven, at 200 degrees celcius, for 30 minutes.
As a vegetable they roast very well with aubergine, peppers and tomatoes. Add some peeled whole cloves of garlic and peeled shallots with a few sprigs of fresh thyme as well. Place them all in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
A classic French way of serving courgettes Niçoise. Slice the courgettes into thin slices, sprinkle lightly with sifted flour and sautée them in oil over a high heat. Then line an oven proof dish with the vegetable, alternating the courgettes with skinned and seeded tomatoes which have been lightly fryed in oil (tinned tomatoes can be used, but try to use fresh as the result is better). Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes. Just before serving fry some garlic and chopped parsley until brown in some hot oil and strain this oil over the dish.
A French friend of mine serves courgettes with pasta.
- Finely chop the vegetables first.
- Fry some onions (or shallots) in butter and oil with a hint of garlic, add the courgettes and after 5 minutes stir in some fresh cream before seasoning.
- Heat rapidly to thicken and at the last moment add some chopped fresh tarragon.
- Serve on pasta and sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan.
We had a dinner party recently and for an entrée I did stuffed courgette pillars.
- The courgettes are sliced longways with a peeler (I find the flexible ones better), discarding any that are too thin or break during preparation.
- Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil and cook the courgette strips in it for no more that 2 minutes.
- Then plunge into iced water and after they are cool pat them dry and lay them carefully on a plate.
- I made three stuffings – fromage frais with a few drops of fresh lemon juice added to diced smoked salmon and fresh chopped coriander.
- For the second I diced some mushrooms, then cooked in butter with a chopped shallot, added some thick cream and boiled rapidly to thicken. After seasoning, I added some fresh chopped tarragon. Allow to cool completely.
- The third stuffing was smoked lardons cooked with sliced and chopped onions plus a little garlic and herbes de provence .
- After 5 minutes I added some skinned and seeded chopped tomatoes, heating the mixture on a high heat to thicken. Allow the stuffing to cool completely.
- To make up the ‘pillars’, lay a strip of courgette on a chopping board and place a small amount of stuffing on one end. Carefully roll it up and stand it on its end – hence the pillar. Repeat this until you have about 12 or more for each person.
- I served them in the centre of a plate surrounded with young rocket leaves from the garden, sliced peeled and de-pipped cucumber, garnished with a few pine nuts.
•With thanks to Chris Lacey
Chris Lacey is a British chef living in France who loves French-inspired cooking. In a continuing series of recipes he rustles up quick dishes using fresh seasonal ingredients.
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