Posts Tagged ‘courgettes’

Ridiculous, I know, but I’m excited today because I spotted the first blush of colour on a tomato in the new vegetable patch–planted a month ago on our old compost heap.

How long from first blush to first bite?

I’m counting the days.

Depends in part on the weather.

Hot days are forecast–so perhaps not so long to wait.

Bit like opening an advent calendar, day-to-day, waiting for Christmas–agony, I remember.

And it’s not only tomatoes that are keeping me enthralled. We just ate our first  cucumber–the short stubby kind–that can be bitter, or sweet as can be.

Julien, who helps us with the garden and grows vegetables for a living, told us:

“If you pick them in the morning, they are less likely to be bitter. The unpleasantness builds up during the day.”

I’m looking for the second little beauty to mature, to test the theory.

He also advises cleaning the knife used to cut away infected leaves before moving on to the next tomato, courgette or cucumber plant.

Makes sense.

And water tomatoes rarely, he says–this encourages their roots to delve deeper and it increases the intensity of the taste. And pick them late in day when they’ve absorbed all the sunshine.

One of the courgette plants was given to us by our neighbour, Tom, and is a different variety from the other three. It resembles the lighter ridged zucchini our friend Helen uses for her courgette pasta at Boggioli, their olive farm in Tuscany.

I think it yields  a creamier sauce.

(See the AUTUMN section of my new cook book Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking, p. 158.)

Julian, normally a genial, droll character, said darkly before departing:

“I may have to pour vinegar on the plot–I’m so jealous!”.

Echoes of the film, Manon des Sources?



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A mid-summer dish this, when zucchini are zingy and the tomatoes ripe and sweet.


The squeeze of lemon adds the third dimension.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of my food heroes, Nigel Slater, in his cookbook, TENDER.

The courgettes and tomatoes should retain their brilliant summer colours.

Resist overcooking, in other words!

for 2 or 3


4 courgettes

3 tbs olive oil

3 medium tomatoes

small handful basil leaves–roughly torn

juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Halve the courgettes length-wise and halve them again–then slice them into not too large chunks [see the photo above].

Roughly chop the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a largish pan and add the zucchini/courgettes.

Cook them gently until they begin to soften–7 to 8 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, basil and lemon juice.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover and cook for about ten minutes to allow everything to get friendly.

For lunch it made a pretty picture lying alongside an omelette.


This is going to feature often for the rest of the summer!



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I favor small red/yellow peppers for this.

Four of these on a plate and you have a light lunch or supper.

(Two would be good as a starter–on a small bed of rocket (arugula).

We added some simple broccoli with garlic to the plate last night.


A pretty picture.

This is adapted from a Marcella Hazan recipe.

for 2/3

3 smallish red peppers

40z/100gms small courgettes–sliced thin (a food processor’s disc is helpful for this)

1 clove garlic–chopped fine

2 oz/50gms grated Emmental cheese (We like the creamy taste of the emmental, but you could try substituting other cheeses, such as parmesan)

1 oz/25gms breadcrumbs (I use organic wholewheat or rye.)

4 tbs olive oil

2 tbs parsley–chopped

salt and pepper


  • set the oven to 400F/200C
  • Peel the peppers carefully with a hand peeler (easier than expected); halve them and then halve them again to form cargo carrying boats.
  • Remove the seeds.
  • Slice the courgettes as thinly as you can.
  • In a large bowl mix the courgettes, cheese, parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs with two tablespoons of the olive oil and season to taste.
  • Load the pepper boats generously with the courgette cargo.


  •  Oil a piece of foil on an oven tray and moor the boats on it.
  • “How apt” Meredith says ” …these  boats being so “moorish”!


  •  Sprinkle over the fourth tablespoon of oil.
  • Thirty minutes in the top half of the oven should do it.

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Three medium courgettes from the single plant in the garden and five eggs made up this handy end-of-season dish adapted from Carluccio’s Vegetable book.


More scrambled eggs than omelette or frittata–it an attractive way to use some of the  courgettes queueing up to be used as the glut develops.

serves 4 as a light lunch

3 medium courgettes

1 onion–sliced thin

3 tbsp olive oil

4 eggs–beaten

50gm/2oz parmesan cheese–grated

2 tbsp parsley–chopped

1 tbsp mint (if available)–chopped

salt and pepper

To prepare the courgettes–peel them in stripes, quarter them lengthwise and cut them in dice.


Sprinkle with salt and leave them to drain in a sieve or colander for an hour or so.

Dry them in kitchen paper or a tea towel.

Heat the oil in a pan big enough to hold all the courgettes in a single layer.

Sauté the onion over a low heat until it softens and then add the courgettes, turning them over  in the oil.

Cook them until they are tender–about 20 minutes.


Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk them together.

Mix in the parmesan, the parsley and mint (if using), season with salt and pepper–more pepper than salt, bearing in mind the courgettes have been salted already.

Pour the egg mix over the courgettes and start turning it over gently as the eggs solidify.


This will not take long–it’s ready when the the mix is loosely solid–scambled in fact!

Take care not to cook it too solid!


Meredith toasted two pieces of wholewheat bread and sprinkled some olive oil over them to eat with these courgette “eggs”.

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Just back from an unexpectedly extended London visit–thanks to a strike by air traffic controllers in France. In fact the extra days (4) were a blessing. A chance to catch up with brother Jack who flew in from Japan the day before we were supposed to leave and nephew Theo, who plays bass guitar in Wolf Alice–burgeoning indy band about to hit the big time.


Brothers as the backing group to the new kid on the block!

Now back in France and a stew with SUMMER  in its DNA–though the seasonal sweetness of fresh tomatoes  may not yet be fully expressed–and enough comfort factor to lift the spirits after a wet and wretched May here–not to mention the tempest raging outside today!


It’s inspired by a Martha Rose Shulman recipe in The New York Times.

Few ingredients, simple to do and a pleasing look–just the ticket!

1 medium onion–chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves–mashed with half a teaspoon of salt

3 medium courgettes/zucchini–cut in centimeter rounds

3 tbsp chopped tomatoes–tinned [canned] at this time of year

200gm/8oz cherry tomatoes–halved

250gms cooked white beans, tinned or jarred–(the best you can find–I favour jarred)

3 sprigs of thyme

salt and pepper

Sweat the onion in the oil until soft; then tip in the garlic and sauté for a few seconds.

Add the courgettes/zucchini and turn them over in the mix.

Cook until they too start to soften–about 5 minutes.

Add all the tomatoes, thyme sprigs and a seasoning of salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes until the cherry tomatoes start to soften.


Add the beans and their liquid and/or a couple of tablespoons of water.

Cook for a further 15 minutes.

Check the seasoning for salt and pepper.

We are having the stew spooned over a baked sweet potato tonight.

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Spatchcocked chicken, roasted onion and sweet potato and a new courgette/zucchini dish


We sat on the terrace last night and ate this simple meal, while Beau played tag with the cows…

and the harvesters were hard at it in the field beyond the road.

Just the three of us–our friend Romaine came back with us from London.

The chicken she and Meredith bought would serve six and there were more onions and an extra sweet potato in the basket for unexpected guests.

The kilo of courgettes–slow cooked and melting–would easily stretch to six.

Happy to be home–we tucked in.

The courgettes/zucchini recipe is from Skye Gyngell’s version in her book  How I Cook.

It is cooked slow and is mushily delicious with a little kick from the chili.

 Slow cooked courgettes/zucchini with garlic and mint.

for 4 

1 lb courgettes/zucchini--sliced thin

2 garlic cloves–sliced thin

1 small dried red chili–chopped

a handful of mint (if you have it)-chopped

salt and pepper

1 tblsp olive oil

  • In a medium pan,  gently soften the garlic and chili in the oil.

  • Add the sliced courgettes/zucchini and turn them over in the oil to coat them thoroughly.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Turn again to distribute the seasoning.
  • Cover the pan and cook for forty minutes on a very low heat.
  • Uncover and fold in the mint, if you have it–which we have, but I forgot it!

I made it again today with a pound (500 grams) of the courgettes and we enjoyed it tepid as a salad.

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"Rentrée" gifts

I’m sitting searching for a new recipe for the chicken we’ll eat tonight when I hear a car draw up.

Life in the country is never predictable–especially when you hope it might be for a few quiet minutes!

The bell outside the courtyard gently rings and footsteps slowly crunch across the gravel.

I put down the cookbook and reluctantly rise to greet the visitor.

There is the lightest knock on the front door.

There stands our neighbour Alice, holding a small rectangular box with 2 kilos of her honey in it.

Honey box

She says it’s only fair she shares some with her “second pair of hands”.

Meredith helped  with the recolte [harvest] of her honey on Monday.

“The honey’s runny–better keep it a plat [flat],”  she says of the harvest. “there was more last year–but not bad nevertheless….”

A spoonful of the honey with a tablespoon of the organic cider vinegar from Thursday’s market will help shore up our health as the seasons change.

Of more interest to me is the small basket of tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes that Alice holds in her other hand–could make a wonderful ratatouille.

Ratatouille basket

“These are probably the last”, Alice says, “in spite of constant watering things have dried up–so enjoy these while you can”.

Too right, Alice–superb! Merci beaucoup!

(And I did nothing to deserve it!)

Talk of the season change persuades me to try the chicken cooked with dried porcini mushrooms (bought last November in Tuscany) tonight.

Recipe to follow–if we like it!

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Our friend, Sonia, called by with husband John yesterday to buy an extra cook book autographed for a friend.

She’s a green-fingered gardener and a generous spirit–seldom arriving without something seasonal from her vegetable patch. Yesterday she brought us two HUGE tomatoes, and a round courgette.

How on earth did she know about our new resolve!?

She also brought enough basil to make pesto (recipe from the cook book)–a favorite with Meredith–which was delicious, drizzled lightly over the grilled aubergine and courgettes for supper:

No wine! We kept the pledge--but it was hard.

Now–what to do with the two red beauties…?

One weighed in at a pound and a half (700 grams)! A sauce, perhaps…?

A sliced tomato salad and pesto again, with the other (a puny pound or 450gms)?

Some of the left-over Parma ham, lightly grilled, and Sonia’s courgette–cut into thick rounds, lightly salted and left to drain for half an hour, dried and brushed with olive oil, then roasted for 20 minutes at a high heat (turn them over after 10 minutes) with a spoonful of tapinade spread over it this time–will see us through to supper.

A merry mess!

Post lunch, I notice that there’s enough tomato sauce left over to make a small courgette tian for supper.

We’ll be not be wanting courgettes for a couple of days!

But there are plenty of other summer choices and I’ll never tire of red ripe tomatoes….must go check the tomato patch!

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Things don’t always grow to plan in the vegetable patch…!


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“—It’s going to be a busy night” to paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve

rounded off by a lunar eclipse (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jun/15/lunar-eclipse-moon-red).

Meredith’s passion–Circle Dancing (http://www.findhorn.org/)aka Sacred Dancing–learned at the Findhorn Foundation(http://www.findhorn.org/) north of Inverness in Scotland.

She has a regular circle of enthusiasts, who dance each month on the night of the full moon for a couple of hours.

in full swing…

John–honourable retiree.

Everyone brings a dish to share after the dance.

My contribution–Courgette soup— is adapted from the River Cafe’s recipe.

It was spotted by our friend and fellow dancer, Sonia,

who grows courgettes herself and brings us a shining green handful from time to time.

It is simple and satisfying, with a light green hue and creamy texture.

for 4

1 kilo courgettes/zucchini–fresh as possible–cut into 1″ square pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic–chopped
500ml/1 pint stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
1 small pot/125gms low/no fat yogurt
50gms grated parmesan— add more to your taste
salt & pepper

a handful each of chopped parsley and chopped basil

  • Fry the courgettes and garlic in the oil until they are very tender and browned a little–about 30 minutes.

a double batch

  • Add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper– taking care with the salt assuming there is salt in the stock.
  • Let the soup cool a little.
  • Remove a quarter of the courgette pieces and liquidise the rest with a food mixer or handheld liquidiser.
  • Return the whole courgette pieces to the soup.
  • Stir in the cheese and yogurt followed by the parsley and basil.
  • Reheat gently.
  • Check the seasoning and bring up to a simmer.
  • Serve in warm bowls.
–there’ll be no need for seat belts* though!
(B Davis’ famous line in the film–“Fasten your seat belts–it’s going to be a bumpy night!”)

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