Courgette. Glut. If we played a word association game, surely these two would appear together? The summer season is upon us, when gardeners must harvest their courgettes several times a week for the plants to remain productive. It’s a time of year when, for courgette growers, every meal has courgettes on the side and every friend receives a courgette delivery.
Yet one man’s glut is another’s gift. I adore these dark green vegetables, speckled with paler spots and suffused with a delicate flavour. They are delicious eaten simply - thinly sliced or peeled into strips and dressed in oil as part of a salad, with a grain and mild cheese. Yet they are also very versatile and can be used to add softness, both of flavour and texture, to many more complex dishes.
However, much as I like courgettes, when my partner's grandparents sent us no less than twelve one Sunday, I struggled to think of ways to keep them interesting over the course several meals. I turned to my favourite food writers and my own back-catalogue for inspiration. And so, from one type of vegetable, I created a week's worth of meals - as well as leftovers for lunches and a cake for elevenses or afternoon tea.
Courgette kofta (Meera Sodha)
A fresh, summery curry. Lightly spiced courgette kofta bask in the warmth of the ginger and tomato sauce. Leftover kofta are great wrapped in a flatbread, with a little of the tomato sauce, a swish of yogurt and some crunchy greens. The recipe is available in Fresh India.
Courgette carbonara (Rachel Roddy or Diana Henry)
This dish has all the creaminess of carbonara, but is lighter and fresher. The mild sweetness of the courgettes works particularly well to counterbalance the rich egg and the saltiness of cheese. Rachel's recipe is available in Five Quarters or online here; Diana's recipe is available in Simple.
Courgette, pepper and chickpea stew (Nigel Slater)
A great weeknight dinner or packed lunch. Follow Nigel's tip to add capers, balsamic and/or herbs to intensify the juices. I eat it with a grain, such as couscous, or with a hunk of good bread to soak up the juices. I gave this recipe to a colleague last year, who recently told me that she now cooks it almost weekly - a testament to the tastiness and ease of this quick meal. The recipe is available in A Year of Good Eating or online here.
Griddle courgette, burrata, fregola
This dish is quick to prepare, but still offers waves of soft, summery flavours. Courgettes, fried in oil until golden and almost collapsing, are layered with chunky fregola (I used Israeli couscous), basil and strips of creamy, milky burrata curds. A squeeze of lemon and a little more oil complete the dish. It's light, bright meal designed for warm days. The recipe is available in Simple or online here.
Courgette fritters (Me)
The crisp, golden shell of these fritters conceals a soft, squidgy centre, with the grated courgette keeping them moist and light. Try them stuffed into a pitta, with a herby yogurt dressing, salty feta and crisp salad. Leftovers will make a very fine packed lunch. Get the recipe here.
Stuffed courgettes (Honey & Co)
Here, courgettes are stuffed with risotto rice, covered with foil, and steamed in the oven. Once it's in the oven, you can get on with other tasks for an hour (remembering to check and baste once), before returning to reveal the finished article. It's a gentle, fragrant dish suffused with warm spices, fresh herbs, and sweet bursts from currants and tomatoes - all lifted by the bright, clean notes of lemon. The recipe is available in Honey & Co: The Cookbook.
Baked pasta with ricotta, courgette and broad beans (Rachel Roddy)
If you didn’t think it was possible to create a light, summery pasta bake, think again. Huge shells of pasta are stuffed with mild, lemon-flecked ricotta and soft green vegetables, before being bound together with béchamel. Supple strips of courgette wind around the pasta and seal in the moisture. A dish that it so delicious and comforting it will win over any friend, family member or guest. The recipe is available online here.
Courgette, lemon and mascarpone cake
If courgette in a cake sounds strange, think of the ubiquitous (and delicious) carrot cake or chocolate beetroot cake. The courgettes lend moisture and a delicate, nutty flavour, but don’t affect the texture. This recipe brings together my own ideas with inspiration from some of my favourite cooks - Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and Mary Berry - to create a spectacular summer cake. Get the recipe here.