Forget the ratatouille: Mark Hix cooks with courgettes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Courgettes are in season again – and all sorts of shapes and sizes are appearing in the shops. Our chef has inspired ideas about how to cook them.

Courgettes seem to be disliked by a lot of people, but my theory is that it's because they are so often simply thrown into a boring ratatouille – and there are so many more delicious ways to prepare and eat them. Badly cooked and unseasoned courgettes can be pretty tasteless, so, as with most vegetables, you need to take a bit of care when it comes to cooking them.

The marrow and gourd family naturally contains a lot of water, so either grilling or roasting them on a high heat tends to produce the best results (unlike carrots or swedes, where you can just boil them and get away with it).

Because of their delicate and relatively neutral flavour, courgettes go very well with all sorts of stronger flavourings, from acidic capers to sweet tomatoes, and they are also great mixed into a mezze-type starter with baked or grilled aubergines and onions, and mediterranean herbs such as marjoram and oregano.

Antipasti of courgettes

Serves 4-6

When courgettes are in season and there are all sorts of different shapes, colours and sizes available, including the flowers, it's a nice idea to make good use of all of them in the form of an antipasti dish such as this one.

You can do a mixture of simple grilled, roasted and steamed; or you could chop them and make a kind of vegetable stew; below are some suggestions.

A friend of mine recently gave me some delicious wild pignuts from down in Dorset – they grow under the ground and their bush-like leaves look rather similar to those of parsley. They are so-called because of their popularity with pigs. I'm not suggesting you go foraging for pignuts; if you can't get hold of them, just use lightly toasted hazelnuts instead.

2 large yellow courgettes, cut into chunky slices on the angle
2 large green courgettes, cut into 5-6 lengths, then cut lengthways into half-cm thick slices
4-6 baby courgettes
2 round courgettes, thinly sliced
2tbsp cider vinegar
5-6tbsp extra virgin olive oil
20 or so pignuts or hazelnuts, lightly toasted
A few courgette flowers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the chunks of yellow courgette on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes, turning them as they are cooking. You can finish them in the oven if you wish, then transfer to a plate.

Heat a ribbed griddle, lightly oil it and grill the slices of green courgette for a couple of minutes on each side, seasoning as they are cooking, until tender.

Transfer to the plate with the roasted courgettes. Simmer the baby courgettes in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes, drain and put to one side. Mix the vinegar and olive oil with the thinly-sliced round courgettes, season and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.

To serve, arrange all of the courgettes on a serving dish, spoon over the marinade and lightly season. Scatterover the nuts and tear the courgette flowers over.

Deep-fried courgette flowers with oxheart tomatoes and shaved courgettes

Serves 4

If you are a gardener and grow your own courgettes or squashes you may not make use of the flowers, instead just letting them die and rot on the plant. What you should do, however, is harvest them when the sun is up in the morning and they are fully opened, and simply fry them in this delicious and simple batter.

The squash and pumpkin family produce lovely flowers that can be harvested continually for a couple of months during the spring and summer; the male flowers are the best ones to pick, as they grow directly from the stem without the courgette attached, so there is no danger of limiting your crop supply.

4 large courgette flowers
120g gluten-free self-raising flour (try Dove's Farm) plus extra for dusting
200ml ice-cold water
20-30g finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
1 large oxheart or beef tomato, cut into 1cm-thick slices (keep the ends and chop them for the dressing)
2 small courgettes
2tsp white wine vinegar
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To make the batter, slowly whisk the water with the flour in a bowl until you have a smooth consistency. Add the salt and pepper and the Parmesan and give it a final whisk.

Trim the courgettes and shave them lengthways into ribbons with a peeler. Mix the ribbons in a bowl with the vinegar and oil and chopped tomato trimmings and season to taste.

Leave for about 10 minutes to marinate. Meanwhile, heat some vegetable oil to 160-180C in a deep-fat fryer or heavy-based saucepan (make sure it is no more than half full). Test the oil by dropping a little batter into the oil. If it browns after a minute, it's ready.

Dip the courgette flowers into flour first and then shake off the excess before dipping into the batter.

Cook them 3 or 4 at a time for a couple of minutes until they are crisp and a light golden colour.

Remove the courgette flowers from the oil with a slotted spoon and put on a plate with some kitchen paper on it and lightly season with salt.

Place the slices of tomato in the centre of your serving plates, then spoon the marinade with the courgette ribbons and chopped tomatoes on top and around; finally, place the courgette flower on top.

Pasta with courgettes and chilli

Serves 4

I rarely keep long-cooking pasta in my cupboard any more as there are several, very good, quick-cooking pastas on the market now – try Cipriani, Filotea from Waitrose and Di Aldo. With high-end quick-cooking pastas like these, it's dead simple to knock up a quick and tasty meal.

4 servings of quality quick-cooking pasta
2 large courgettes
2tsp dried chilli flakes
100-120ml olive oil
100g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Cut the courgettes into 4-5cm lengths then slice them lengthways as thinly as possible and shred them. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the manufacturer's instructions, then drain in a colander, reserving a little cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, melt half the butter and 50ml of the olive oil in a pan and gently cook the courgettes and chilli for 3-4 minutes until they are just tender. Toss them with the pasta, season and add the rest of the butter and olive oil and enough of the cooking water to form a coating sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Courgette tart

Serves 4-6

This is a simple tart for a dinner-party starter; or you could slice it into fingers for cocktail snacks.

200g butter puff pastry rolled to about one-third of a cm
2 large courgettes
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2tsp tomato purée
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
2tbsp freshly-grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Cut the pastry into rectangles about 30cm x 8cm, lay them on a baking tray and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 6-7 minutes without colouring and put to one side. Cut the courgettes into 7cm lengths then cut them lengthways into slices of about one-third of a centimetre thick.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick or heavy frying pan and fry the courgettes for a minute on each side on a high heat until they begin to colour; then transfer to a plate. Heat the olive oil in the same pan and fry the tomatoes for a minute, season, add the tomato purée and coarsely blend them in a food processor.

To serve, spread the tomato mixture on to the pastry, arrange the courgettes on top by overlapping them. Season, mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together and scatter on top of the courgettes. Bake for 8-10 minutes, remove from the oven and serve whole on a board and cut it at the table; or you could cut into portions and serve on warm serving plates.

Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
News
James Corden’s social media footprint was a factor for CBS
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness