PRETTY LITTLE GREEN COURGETTE
With apologies to Prince, although I don’t think courgettes are that promiscuous – well maybe. In case I’m being a little obscure (surely not) I think Prince’s Pretty Little Red Corvette was about a one night stand with a rather fast lady.
Anyway, we have reached the time of the year when there are more courgettes around than football experts, and we have the annual dilemma of what to do with them.
Welllll, here’s a suggestion which I have found to be a winner.
In the Guardian, Felicity Cloake does an article on how to cook the perfect whatever. Each week she picks a dish, mainly classics, and compares the results of cooking recipes from various cook books. A few weeks ago her chosen dish was stuffed courgette. I’m sure she won’t mind my copying it here.
Perfect Provençal stuffed courgettes Prep 15 min Cook 1 hr 30 min Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main 4 medium round courgettes or 2 large long ones 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 medium, ripe tomatoes 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 80g long-grain rice 150ml vegetable (or chicken) stock 1 large bunch fresh mint 50g finely grated parmesan Salt and black pepper 2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs Basil, to garnish
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Cut the tops off the round courgettes, if using, and scoop out the flesh with a grapefruit spoon or melon baller, taking care to leave sturdy walls around the outside; if you’ve got long courgettes, cut them in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh in the same way. In either case, roughly chop the flesh, along with the lids of the round kind.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a simmer, add the courgettes and blanch for five minutes. In the meantime, prepare a sink full of iced water and, once the courgettes are done, scoop them out of the pan and into the sink to cool down (this will help keep them nice and green). Heat the oil in a wide pan over a medium-low heat, add the onion, and cook until soft and golden. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out and discard the watery seeds, then finely chop the flesh.
Add to the pan with the courgette flesh and garlic, cook until soft, then stir in the rice, add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Meanwhile, pick and roughly chop the mint leaves.
Stir the parmesan and mint into the stuffing mix and season to taste. Put the hollowed-out courgettes on a greased baking sheet and divide the filling between them, packing it in well, then cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Toss the breadcrumbs in a splash of olive oil, season, sprinkle on top of the courgettes, and bake for a further 15 minutes. Tear a few basil leaves over the top before serving.
A few points I’ve amended is that this works well with courgettes that have got away. That is that they were fine yesterday at 6 inches long but go back the next day and they’ve doubled in size. The 12 inch courgette works particularly well in this recipe. I have found that there is no need to blanch them, as long as you use them the same day as you pick them. I have found they need nearly an hour to make the topping nice and crisp. Also, put any extra topping in the roasting pan – it’s deliciously crispy when cooked.
And why is it that cook books always understate the prep time - 15 minutes, not even Fanny Craddock could manage that.