Recipe: Perfume that transforms the poor man's plate

OUR bulging mail bag for the cooking with mint category attests to the herb's enduring popularity in home kitchens. It is popular for a very good reason: its heady perfume and high, clean flavour transform almost anything.

This week, it works wonders with courgettes, or zucchine as they are called by the Italian contributor, Anna Mangini of Crouch End, north London. She suspects this recipe is originally from Puglia, in southern Italy. 'My grandmother used to cook it,' she writes, '. . . it's a very simple recipe as it's made by the poor.'

By happy coincidence, she notes it is delicious with seasoned bread and cheese, which would make it a perfect accompaniment to Mr Taruschio's cheese bread (see above).

Ms Mangini will receive a bottle of Cabernet Franc 1990 Family Reserve from Francis Ford Coppola's estate in Napa Valley, California, imported by Reid Wines, of Hallatrow, near Bristol.

Zucchine with Mint Pesto

Serves 6

Ingredients: 1 1/2 kg (3.3lb) courgettes

100ml (4fl oz) good olive oil

4-5 cloves garlic

2 big handfuls of mint leaves

4-5tbs red wine vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation: Wash and slice courgettes into slender coins. Cover the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or casserole with 2-3 tbs olive oil and heat. Add courgettes and stir with wooden spoon. Fry gently over a medium heat for a few minutes. Salt and cover with lid. Lower heat and cook. Stir occasionally: if the bottom begins to stick, add water conservatively, by the tablespoon. When the courgettes are cooked (after about 20 minutes) they should be soft and tender, but holding their shape. Remove from heat. Roughly chop mint leaves and garlic. Combine them in a mortar and pestle and pummel, gradually adding 50-75ml (2-3fl oz) olive oil to make a pesto. Heat pesto in a frying pan until the scent rises, removing it before the garlic browns. Add vinegar. Toss with courgettes, adjust seasoning. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

Next week, still more mint. Recipes are welcome for the following category: cooking with peaches and plums. Please send your entries, stating the source, if not original, to Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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