Archive for the ‘courgette’ Category

Pickling Wild Garlic seed heads

Heading to the woods to pick the seed heads from the wild garlic has been on my to do list for a while!  Nature waits for no woman, but luckily I found them still intact today.  I’m thinking this would be better done sometime earlier (like 3 weeks ago) since they do feel a lot tougher and definitely ready to pop.  The flavour, however, is still definitely of garlic and green.  And I’m not willing to wait until next year to try this process that I first heard through twitter from chef Enda McEvoy and later found this brilliant post with great pictures on The Hunter Gatherer Cook: (http://huntergathercook.typepad.com/huntergathering_wild_fres/2010/06/wild-garlic-pods-hop-shoots-and-some-other-stuff.html).

So these are what I picked.

What’s left to do is use a fork to pull the heads from the light stalks and in a jar, cover with infused vinegar (Hunter Gatherer used pine needle vinegar which I don’t seem to have…).  He recommends infusing with mustard seeds and rosemary.  Well, all my rosemary died with the frost and I’m not sure if I have any mustard seeds but I’m going to make a pickle – maybe with cider vinegar and a touch of honey.  Will let you know how this delicacy goes.

I’ve been gardening a little too so my Circles are starting to take shape, if not a little later this year than last.  I have beets, chard, rocket and other leaves in one.  Summer sprouting broccoli takes another and I’ve just put 3 courgette plants into a third.  Last night I left out a little treat for the slugs who really love hiding in the stones that make the surrounds of my circular beds.

Slug Trap

A lot of slugs were harmed in the making of this blog post – today I counted about 20 slugs in the beer trap.  Sorry guys but we have to eat greens too!  I just used an empty tuna tin buried flush with the soil and poured in some out of date ale.  It really was quite satisfying to finally catch up with the slugs.  I’m planning a few more slug parties around the garden.

Back in January, Hugo from Cafe Azteca in Dublin sent me on some seeds for tomatillo and epazote, which I promised to sow for him in the tunnel.  Tomatillos are difficult to get here and go into making the green salsa for real Mexican cuisine.  Epazote is a herb Hugo used to flavour a black bean soup he made at his Mexican cookery class here.  It has grown just fine after being started on a heated bench in the glass house.  I transplanted some in the tunnel and outside to see how it gets on.  It was the dried version Hugo used so I should be able to harvest and store if it goes well.  A very distinctive aroma and flavour that’s difficult to describe (I wrote this before looking up widipedia!) but apparently very dear to Mexican cooks.  I would say it has an almost metallic/chemical smell that reminds me of chlorine.  Weird I know, but here’s what widipedia has to say on the herb:

Epazote is used as a leaf vegetable and herb for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anisefennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. It has been compared to citruspetroleumsavorymint and camphor.

Epazote

The tomatillos are really taking off since transplanted into the tunnel a couple of weeks ago.

Tomatillo tunnel

Going to try some wild garlic seeds with boiled baby beets for dinner.  Garlic and beetroot – a great combination.  Try it!

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Courgette & Almond Soup

I realise this is about my 4th courgette recipe but these guys just keep coming and they grow so fast – one minute they’re baby courgettes and the next day they’re all grown up and need to be cooked.   I really miss this veggie during the rest of the year so I really want to make the most of the time we have together.  Making courgette soup is really saying ‘I have a lot of this and they got too big’.  I wouldn’t dream of it any other time of year.

The plants in the tunnel are finished up, but outside continue to thrive.

My great bit courgette plant outdoors

This recipe also contains celery – we were given some lovely celery transplants on 15th June and recommended to try some in the tunnel.  I sowed half in the tunnel and half outside.  Both crops are doing well.  I started using the indoor celery at about half the size of the average shop bought celery.  For a ‘calorie neutral’ vegetable it is surprisingly tasty and I’m finding a new found love for celery.  Home grown seems to add a much greater ‘natural flavouring’ than boring shop varieties.

Celery Tunnel

Celery Forest

And for the Recipe:

Courgette & Almond Soup (Serves 6-8)

1 small knob butter

2 white onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 head celery, washed and roughly chopped

1 potato, peeled and roughly chopped

4 medium courgettes, roughly chopped

enough water or light vegetable stock to cover the veggies

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1 large bunch freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. Over a low-medium heat melt the butter.  Add the onion, garlic, celery and pinch sea salt and sweat gently for 15 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally.  .  This is a brilliant way to get lots of flavour into a veggie soup without having to add a strong stock that might take away from the real flavours of the vegetables.  In fact, you can sweat them out for even longer if you have time!
  2. Add the bay leaf, thyme sprig, potato and hot water or stock – just enough to cover the veg.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes, before adding the courgette and more hot water or stock to cover the additional veg.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  The potato and courgette should both be tender, but careful not to overcook the courgette!
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and take out the thyme sprig and bay leaf.  Add the ground almonds and use a hand-blender or food processor to whizz the soup until it’s smooth.  Check the seasoning – add a small amount of salt and pepper as needed.  Is it too thick?  Thin down with some light stock or water.  Reheat to serve.  Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving.

This is a seriously good soup – the almonds add some substance and wonder mineral for long-living humans: calcium.

Courgette & Almond Soup

Green Dwarf Beans – salad with courgette & basil

I’ve been neglectful of my blog – but worse than that, my garden!  Life took on a few busy twists and events.  Last week I held cookery camps for kids from Monday to Friday, morning and afternoon.  The afternoon group was my first ‘Boys Junior Chef Cookery Camp’.  We had great fun baking, identifying new garden vegetables and herbs and gathering them up for cooking.  My proudest moment was seeing them dig into green ‘shrek’ (love the name – comes from one of the kid’s dad!) soup in a bread bowl.  By Friday I was ready to say goodbye and have some sleep.

The garden has been fruiting like crazy and we’re at a point where everything needs to be picked…..yesterday!  This salad I’m posting a recipe for uses up a few ingredients that I have loads of right now (basil, courgette, green beans, parsley) – it’s a July/August salad only.

Raw Materials

Courgette & Green Bean Salad

1 small knob butter

1 red onion

4 cloves garlic

2 medium or 1 large courgette

1 good handful green dwarf beans – topped, tailed and sliced into 2 inch lengths

1 generous tablespoon basil pesto

1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1oz / 30g finely grated parmesan cheese

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Bring a pot of salty water to the boil and drop the green beans into it for 2 minutes.  Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside (they should remain slightly warm)

Blanching green beans

  • Heat the butter in a frying pan and sweat the sliced red onion for 3 minutes.  Add the sliced courgette, garlic and sea salt – cook until the courgette is just tender, but retains some bite – about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Sliced Courgette

  • When the courgettes have cool down a bit, stir in the drained green beans, grated parmesan, basil pesto, black pepper and parsley.  Taste.  Does it need more salt, pepper or a little more pesto/cheese??  Add these to your taste.

It’s best served warm or at room temperature.  I ate this today for my dinner with just a homemade flat-bread.  It’s a great lunch or starter for a dinner party – serve with crusty bread and your guests will be weeping and weak at the knees!

Courgette Salad

Courgette Salad

Stuffed Courgette Blossoms

As promised – to myself and to my blog – this is the year I would stuff courgette blossoms, batter them, fry them and eat them. Last weekend looked like a day we had enough to justify the energy required to heat the oil.  There are blossoms attached to courgettes that seem to last only until evening once they’ve reached their peak – in size, openness and glamour.  Then there are those attached to a narrow stalk – these weren’t as easy to separate and stuff as the very fresh blossoms attached to the vegetable.  It’s important, then, to strike while the iron is roasting and make the most of these delights quickly.

Courgette Plant Flowering

I looked to a recipe in Dennis Cotter’s fabulous vegetarian cookbook – The Cafe Paradiso Cookbook – where I knew he had set about the same task.  It was mainly method I was looking for, as I had a different set of ingredients for the stuffing.

My stuffing was:

1 small red onion

1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic

4 tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped – parsley & chives

30g parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 – 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese

pinch each of nutmeg & cayenne pepper

salt/freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil and sweat the onion gently for 5 minutes without allowing to brown.  Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, check seasoning and set aside until ready to stuff.

I picked the courgettes at this point and brought them to the kitchen.  I’m not sure if the blossoms are generally left attached to the courgette but I did this with half of them as I saw it in the cookbook and it looked nice.

Method for stuffing them is quite delicate and I was glad to have an extra pair of hands in my husband around!  Very gently, open the flower without tearing the sides all the way down.  With one finger down in the blossom, break off the stamen and remove it.  Next, with the help of a small spoon and narrow butter knife, stuff each blossom with 1-2 tsp of stuffing.  Twist the top gently to seal in the stuffing and set aside to batter.

The batter I used was from this cookbook, but I imagine you could use any similar consistency batter:

200g plain flour

salt

1 egg yolk

300ml water

Each stuffed courgette blossom is dipped in the batter and deep fried in hot oil (at 180°C).

Deep frying courgette blossoms

Serve immediately with something tasty to dip into – I had fresh basil pesto, it was yum!

Stuffed Courgette Blossoms

Stuffed Courgette Blossoms with Courgette Attached

So how did they taste?  Amazing!  The stuffing itself is quite tasty of course – but there is also huge mouth enjoyment in the tip of the flower.  The texture was great and it had lovely delicate flavour.  A much more interesting way to eat the blossom instead of tearing into a salad, for example.  With or without the vegetable attached?  The courgette tended to be a bit soggy deep fried like this so I would much prefer to see this as a crunchy addition to my salad.    I can see why people go to the trouble, but take my hat off to anyone serving these in a restaurant situation as they are quite fiddly to make.  Maybe someone knows an easier way?