Nigel Slater conjures up a winning trio of courgette recipes (2024)

The back steps that lead from the kitchen to the garden have come a long way in the past decade. They were narrow and treacherous when I moved in, and I soon made them much wider and longer with some old stone slabs someone had buried at the bottom of the garden. The idea was to make them capacious enough to hold pots of herbs and vegetables that would be close enough to the kitchen to reach out and grab a handful while I was cooking. Now that the veg patch is full to bursting with two bean tepees and rows of cabbages, the steps have recently come into their own.

Right now this extra space is home to strawberry plants (Florence, Gariguette and the new Chelsea Pensioner), lemon thyme (a friend to all manner of fish), anise hyssop (good with lamb) and huge pots of tomatoes tied to wobbly stakes from fig-tree prunings to hold them up. A small amount spent on tomato plug plants will shortly be paying off, with knobbly Marmande and sweet Sungold the size of marbles (to name but two of the varieties I planted in early summer).

Although they rarely work quite as well as in the soil proper, courgettes survive well enough in pots (one is so large I use it as a doorstop), and they are currently a source of ingredients for cheap suppers, with their fruit being used almost daily. The pots have to be large enough to give the roots room to spread and to support the plants, which get heavy at this point in the summer. They need to be a good 30cm deep and they need rich soil, but you will be well rewarded. Almost too well.

The plants are close enough to the kitchen that they can benefit from every basinful of vegetable rinsing water, but I chuck a fortnightly dose of liquid tomato food at them, too, and they love it. Eavesdropping at the market the other day, it turns out I am not the only one whose courgette plants are supplying a glut of fruit at the moment.

I heard a couple of people struggling for ideas with an embarrassment of courgettes.

My first thought is to slice them thinly, grill them, then toss with olive oil, basil and some sort of mild-mannered cheese such as mozzarella, halloumi or feta. My second is slightly more complex but also more sustaining: a thick tomato sauce, grilled courgettes and a little fresh ricotta held in layers, like a lasagne without the pasta. I also make another light, fresh-tasting dish where the courgettes are served in a shallow layer with cream and dill. Something to think about with a whole baked trout or a piece of salmon.

Of course it's not purely courgettes that are coming in a glut right now, but any summer squash. The round ones - ronde de Nice, some of them are called - can be scooped out and stuffed. The classic filling is rice based, and that can be very good with lightly fried onions, plump sultanas and chopped herbs, but I also like a stuffing of chopped cherry tomatoes and basil. The hollowed cups of the round courgette hold the juice from the melting tomatoes. They are also worth thinking about raw: try grating them coarsely and tossing with lemon juice and chopped mint.

The idea of baking with members of the squash family usually stops at pumpkin pie, but I have had much success using grated courgettes in cakes. They add moisture and a nutty sweetness that others have found very pleasing. The cake recipe overleaf is good as it stands, but you could trickle over a spoonful of lemon icing if you felt so inclined, or serve it with a piece of punchy cheddar on the side instead.

Courgette, tomato and ricotta bake

Nigel Slater conjures up a winning trio of courgette recipes (1)

A light, fresh-tasting lunch dish. When vegetables are baked in layers with tomato sauce and cheese they can become overly rich. This is a stripped-back, clean-tasting version that is particularly light and fresh. Serves 4.

500g courgettes
olive oil
5 spring onions
750g tomatoes
a handful of basil leaves
250g ricotta

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Remove the stalks from the courgettes then slice them down their length into strips as thick as a pound coin. Brush them lightly with olive oil and grill them on both sides until tender. Remove and season with salt and black pepper and, if you wish, a little more oil.

Chop the spring onions and soften them in a little oil in a shallow pan. Roughly chop the tomatoes, tip them in with the onions, and leave to simmer down to a soft, slushy sauce. Season with black pepper and the basil leaves.

Layer the tomato sauce and the courgettes in a shallow baking dish, crumbling in the ricotta as you go. Trickle with olive oil and bake till the tomato sauce is bubbling.

Courgettes with dill cream

Nigel Slater conjures up a winning trio of courgette recipes (2)

There is lots of creamy liquid in this recipe, and I like to serve it as a side dish with rice to soak it all up. In many ways it is what I would choose to serve with a piece of poached salmon, or perhaps a few roast chicken thighs with a rice pilaf at their side. Serves 2 as a side dish.

500g courgettes
a large handful of dill fronds
120ml double cream

Remove the core of the courgettes and cut each courgette in half lengthways, then into fat chunks. Tip them into a colander in the sink, scatter sea salt over them and leave them for half an hour. This will remove some of their liquid.

Wipe the salt from the courgettes with a piece of kitchen paper then tip them into a steamer or a colander. Place over a pan of boiling water and steam for 8-10 minutes till tender to the point of a knife. Roughly chop the dill. Bring the cream to the boil, stir in a little coarsely ground black pepper and the chopped dill. Tip the courgettes into a serving dish and pour over the cream.

Courgette cake

Courgettes have the ability to make a cake as moist and sweet as if you added ground almonds to the recipe. So many have asked for this recipe that I can't resist including it.

Serves 6.

200g butter
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g courgettes (about 2 small ones)
1 small apple
200g plain flour
a large pinch salt
½ tsp baking powder
pinch cinnamon
60g pecans
80g sultanas (half cup, packed)

Preheat oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Butter and line the base of a loaf tin measuring 20cm x 12cm x 9cm deep. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and mix them in, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Coarsely grate the courgettes and the apple. Squeeze them with your hands to remove any excess moisture, then add to the mixture. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon, and gently fold into the mixture. Stir in the nuts and fruit. Transfer to the lined loaf tin and bake for about an hour, or until golden and firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.

Nigel Slater conjures up a winning trio of courgette recipes (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fredrick Kertzmann

Last Updated:

Views: 5611

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fredrick Kertzmann

Birthday: 2000-04-29

Address: Apt. 203 613 Huels Gateway, Ralphtown, LA 40204

Phone: +2135150832870

Job: Regional Design Producer

Hobby: Nordic skating, Lacemaking, Mountain biking, Rowing, Gardening, Water sports, role-playing games

Introduction: My name is Fredrick Kertzmann, I am a gleaming, encouraging, inexpensive, thankful, tender, quaint, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.