Courgettes are the prudes of the summer bounty, delicate souls whose whispering flavour can present somewhat of a problem to extract. If their quality is suspect then cooking them to a fatty mush and slapping them around with some wilder flavours is no bad thing. However, if you find yourself with a particularly savage crop then whatever you chose to do with them be conscious not to tend towards over treatment, rather, make space for their sweet, grassy, peppery whisper.
Courgette soup with egg and sapphire
First make a summery vegetable stock. White onions, leeks, celery, garlic, parsley stalks, fresh bay and a few peppercorns are essentials. Fennel, carrots and kohlrabi are welcome additions. For this particular stock some mint and lemon balm thrown in on their stems would be ace. Whatever you use make sure it is as fresh as possible, an old onion for example will lend an overpowering bitterness. Slice all the vegetables thinly, pop everything in a pot, lightly fry for five minutes and then fill with water and bring to a boil. As soon as it reaches a boil adjust the heat to keep it at a steady simmer, skim, and after 20 minutes turn off the heat. Leave to cool naturally for an hour or two, then strain.
Slice your courgettes thinly but most importantly evenly, bring a little more than enough stock to cover the courgettes to a simmer, season, add the courgettes (and a leaf or two of mint and lemon balm if you have it) and simmer until they’re completely tender. Give the courgettes a mega blitz, using just enough stock to bring it all to a double cream consistency. Season to taste with salt and a little bit of pepper.
Give some eggs (one for every two portions) a soft hard boil. Pop them in boiling water and take off the heat immediately. Leave them for twenty minutes, then cool in ice water, peel and slice lengthwise into sixths (the white of the egg won’t have bound in as a normally boiled egg would, though cooked through it will be a little custardy, you may find it easier to spoon it out of its shell and to crush and spoon it over the soup).
When you’re ready to serve and the soup (slightly cooler than room temperature) is in its bowls prepare the sapphire. Chop it into inch/inch-and-a-half lengths and fry and season in some butter and a drop of rapeseed oil (so the butter doesn’t burn much) for a minute of two then finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or some white wine vinegar. Then garnish the soup with the egg and sapphire.
Courgettes, yogurt and mustard leaves
In a baking tray or a heavy bottomed pan-fry some whole courgettes (smallish and irregularly sized ones are ideal here) in olive oil, seasoning them with salt and pepper. When they begin to colour add a splash of water, cover them with water and pop in a hot oven. Give them a shake every so often and bake for three quarters of an hour or so. Have a peak half way through and give them another splash of water if you think they’re likely to stick and burn in parts. Take the foil off and give them another ten minutes, with regular shakes. Let them cool – their skins should be dark brown and blistered with a creamy interior. Serve whole with some yogurt spooned over, a grind of pepper and some lightly dressed mustardy leaves.
Courgette and oat biscuits
A simple idea this but a little complicated to execute. There are five ingredients: courgette, oats, honey, butter and sea salt. The difficulty is twofold – one, in bringing out the taste of courgette to the forefront and secondly in giving the biscuits a biscuity feel (rather than a cakey feel) despite the very high water content of the courgettes. An ideal solution is to chop some courgettes and half dehydrate them in the oven (at no higher than 70c for about six hours, giving them an occasional jig around) as well as juicing the rest of your courgettes and reducing the juice to a thick syrup. If you don’t have a juicer you can chop them up, blitz them and then squeeze through muslin to extract the equivalent juice.
Half bake the oats dry in a medium oven. Then when cool you can make the biscuits, mixing the oats and chopped courgettes, and enough melted butter (leaving the milky mumbo-jumbo at the bottom of the pot) to just bind them. Then some honey to taste and at the last moment fold through the courgette syrup. Form biscuits in your hand, pop onto to lightly greased baking paper, sprinkle with a tiny bit of flaky sea salt and pop straight in a medium-hot oven, baking until it begins to shine gold.