One of the things I love about the summer months is spending time in the garden. I unashamedly say that I’m a fair-weather gardener and don’t see any pleasure in being out there in the bitter cold. In a similar vein, I like to keep things low maintenance… lots of colour from fuchsia’s and geraniums bought in Columbia Road market at the beginning of Spring, structure from Agapanthus and Dahlias, and wonderful scent from Lavender…. also ensuring that the bees are kept happy! We also have a small vegetable patch with a couple of bean plants, a few different tomato plants and 3 courgette plants, alongside the basic herbs and some chillis. By this time of the year the challenge is to pick the courgettes before they become marrows, and to pick every last ripe tomato as they taste to much better than anything from a supermarket. Beans are at least quite sporadic with just a handful ripening at any time.
Over the years I have tried to come up with more creative ideas for courgettes. I actually find them dull just boiled and soggy – reminiscent of my youth, although they would have been far too fancy for school! When they are young, they are delicious raw in a salad, just sliced thinly and tossed with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper, topped with parmesan shavings.
One of my favourite recipes is based on a traditional French Tourte au Courgette, although I have adapted it a little, and continue to do so depending on what herbs/cheese i have in the fridge. Most recently I made the recipe below – the challenge is always how wet the courgettes are… I used a rather large one for this, verging on almost becoming a marrow so I sprinkled it with salt and let it drainer about 30 minutes whilst I prepared the rest of the dish. Some people add a handful of half cooked rice to the mixture to soak up excess liquid. We ate it hot for dinner with a simple homegrown tomato and basil salad, but I also had it cold for lunch the next day.
Courgette & Ricotta Pie
3 normal sized courgettes, grated and left to drain.
4 spring onions – chopped finely
1 clove garlic – minced
1 tub Ricotta
300g grated cheese – I used a mixture of Parmesan, Manchego and cheddar.
Salt & Pepper, pinch of nutmeg if desired.
1 pkt of All butter shortcrust pastry – I alway use Waitrose ready rolled
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Line your pie tin with pastry, leaving a high lip and enough to cover the top. Leave this to rest.
Take all your filling ingredients and mix together. Season to taste – remember that the cheese can be salty, but it also complements the sweet taste of the courgettes. Pile into the pastry case and then cover with the remaining pastry lid. Press down well on the edges, and make a little hole in the middle to let out steam. Brush the top with some milk or beaten egg.
Bake in a hot oven for at least 45 min – 1 hour. Test its cooked by sticking a sharp veg knife in the middle and checking the temperature – and if the courgette feels crisp, it isn’t ready. Turn the heat down if necessary.
Cool a little and leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
1 packet of All Butter shortcrust pastry (I used ready rolled from Waitrose)