Cour blimey: Skye Gyngell cooks with courgettes

Think courgettes are a bit bland? Think again, says Skye Gyngell – add a dash of seasoning, chilli or garlic and they're a delicious little treat

In our vegetable garden at work we always have an abundance of courgettes at this time of year, so we try to find as many uses for them as possible. The courgette plant has wonderfully elegant leaves, hiding underneath which is the prettiest flower, like a pale yellow tulip. We use them in salads or gently fill them with ricotta and deep-fry. They are wonderful with roast chicken, too: slice finely and sweat over a low heat with butter, oil and lashings of garlic; they will melt down to the most delicious sludge. Then there are the courgettes themselves...

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, Skye will be appearing from 11am-8pm today at the Cloudy Bay Shack, Parsons Green, London SW4, where she will create five dishes to match each of its wines

Deep-fried courgette shoestrings

Here I have served these irresistible little batons with simply roasted wild sea bass – but they are also lovely just on their own.

Serves 6

375g/12oz plain flour
250ml/8fl oz olive oil
250ml/8fl oz water
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 egg whites, whisked into stiff peaks
5 courgettes
Sea salt

Pre-heat your deep fryer to 180C/350F (or carefully warm vegetable oil in a heavy-based pan) and start making the batter. Sift the flour and place in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil and half the water. Whisk to combine until it is a thick, smooth batter. Add the rest of the water, paprika and a little salt, and fold in the egg whites. Store in the fridge until ready to use (the batter will sit happily for a few hours).

Now wash and dry the courgettes and cut them in half. Slice finely lengthwise and then into fine matchsticks. Place into a mixing bowl and pour a little of the batter over them. Toss together lightly with your fingertips to coat all the batons.

Fry in batches until golden-brown, then drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve while hot and crunchy.

Shoulder of lamb with courgettes

Serves 6

1 shoulder of lamb
Sea salt and black pepper
2 glasses dry white wine
2 tbsp good-quality red-wine vinegar
2 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch sage
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
2 anchovies
5 cloves garlic
3 green courgettes
3 yellow courgettes
25ml/1fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4 then, using a sharp knife, trim the shoulder of most of its fat and season with salt and pepper. Place in a pan large enough to hold the meat and brown well all over on top of a hot stove.

Transfer to a baking tray and pour over the white wine and vinegar, add the bay leaves, sage, chilli, anchovies and whole garlic cloves. Cover the baking tray with foil and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for two-and-a-half hours.

Remove the foil from the lamb and cook uncovered for a further 30 minutes. With about 20 minutes to go, slice the courgettes into large, uneven chunks. Pour the oil into a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and add the courgettes and garlic. Stir to combine and season with a little sea salt and black pepper. Place a lid on the pan and cook until the courgettes are tender – this will take 15 minutes or so.

Remove the lamb from the oven – it should now be soft enough to eat with a spoon – and pull the meat from the bone, discarding the shoulder blade. Stir in the courgettes and sprinkle over some parsley. Add good bread and a simple green salad and serve.

Clams with yellow and green courgettes, chilli and fino sherry

Courgettes can be bland and watery on their own, but here they suck up the salty sea taste of the clams, while the chilli and garlic add heat. Do serve bread with this dish to soak up all the delicious juices.

Serves 6

2 yellow courgettes
2 green courgettes
40ml/2fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
500g/1lb clams
250ml/8fl oz fino (or dry white wine)
1 medium bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Sea salt and a few grindings of black pepper

Wash and dry the courgettes, slice in half lengthwise and chop into chunky pieces. Place a pan over a medium heat, pour in half the olive oil and crumble in the chilli and garlic. Add the courgettes and turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, carefully stirring every now and then, until the courgettes are tender.

While the courgettes are cooking, rinse the clams well under cold, running water. Place a separate pan (large enough to hold all of the ingredients) over a high flame. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and, when hot, add the clams. Pour in the fino and shake the pan a little. Throw in the parsley and, as the clams begin to open, add the courgettes. Toss together to combine all the flavours. Pour in the remaining olive oil. Taste for seasoning and ladle into soup bowls. Serve with warm crusty bread or bruschetta.