Courgette Pasta

There seem to be so many wonderful things in season at the moment.  There’s all the summer abundance of fruit, berries, leaves and beans.  Then there’s the exciting prospect of a more autumnal harvest right around the corner-  blackberries, figs then eventually pumpkins, apples, cobnuts and game.  So much to enjoy and so much to look forward to!

My greengrocer has been coming up trumps.  I don’t know if the area is attracting a more discerning vegetable consumer (a belated Olympic effect, perhaps? The East End seems to be getting more gentrified by the minute), but suddenly I’ve got heritage tomatoes, baby aubergines and chanterelles on my doorstep.  There are also beautiful courgettes, including the fat, yellow variety.

I think these in particular warrant a celebration and what better way than by turning them into the main affair?  I first tried a version of this dish at Leiths for our ‘creative red mullet’ day by pairing thin strips of courgette with basil oil and pan fried fish.  I love red mullet, but the courgette ‘pasta’ was a real revelation.  I recognise that this may seem like diet food in disguise and I suppose it could be, but I promise you won’t miss the carbohydrate.  However, if you do want to make it even healthier, tone down the olive oil.

Courgette Pappardelle

You will need:
200g baby tomatoes
1 yellow courgette
1 green courgette
100g baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small red onions, sliced
handful of basil, torn
extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juice and zest
Parmesan
Sea salt and pepper

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 190 C.  Slice baby tomatoes in half through their middles (they look prettier that way) and place on an oven tray.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until cooked through and beginning to caramelise, approx 20-25 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, make your courgette tagliatelle.  Use a wide peeler (like a speed peeler) to create thin slices of courgette, moving around the vegetable to get the right shape.  You only want the outer, more dense layer of courgette (and the beautiful skins)- do not use the middle, water-logged seed-y part.  You’ll end up with a long, rectangular bit of courgette, which you can discard or save for soups or stir fries.

3.  Gently fry the onion until just soft.  Add the garlic and spinach and heat until the spinach has just wilted. Off the heat, add the roasted tomatoes, lemon zest, basil, a drizzle of olive oil and season. 

4.  In a separate frying pan, add the strips of courgette with a splash of lemon juice and another drizzle of olive oil.  You don’t want to fry the courgette as such, merely heat the strips through- the bite is part of the appeal.

5.  Plate up the courgette and top with the tomato and spinach mixture.  Finish with a grating of Parmesan and wolf down. 

Leafy Greens

I recognise that my previous post was practically a love letter to the current season, so this post is going to be a bit more pessimistic.  This weather is a pain in the arse.  It is only me, or is it unusually cold and damp for this time of year?   I’ve just managed to get rid of a scratchy, chesty cough, but still feel quite run down.  

It’s a situation that calls for vegetables.  The iron-packed variety preferably in as virtuous a form as possible, not slathered in cheese or anything.  I’ll take this cavolo nero and bean soup, topped with a vitamin c packed gremolata to ward away bugs and nurse me back to health.  

Cavolo nero is cabbage’s stylish, Italian cousin.  Tall, dark and handsome, that kind of thing.  This soup recipe has been nicked from the Waitrose website. It is very much what I think of as a classic version of this kind of Tuscan-inspired, hearty potage and it tastes brilliant as well as being incredibly good for you. 


Cannellini Bean and Cavolo Nero Soup


You will need:


For the soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 medium tomatoes
150ml dry white wine
 800ml vegetable stock
1 bouquet garni
410g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
200g cavolo nero, thinly sliced
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large clove garlic, crushed

For the Gremolata
1 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley

Method:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and fry until soft and beginning to colour. 

2. Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes. 

3. Add the wine to the vegetables and bring to the boil, then add the tomatoes, stock, bouquet garni and beans.  Simmer.  

4. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes, before adding the cavolo nero and leaving to cook for another 10-15 minutes. 

  
5. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Combine the lemon zest, garlic and parsley then add just enough oil to make a paste. 

6.  Remove the bouquet garni and serve the soup with a sprinkling of the gremolata.  

And now on to another hearty, healthy vegetable that is also in season, but this time the recipe actually is slathered in cheese, I’m afraid.  But life would be pretty dull if it was virtuous all the time. 

As we approach Halloween, all sorts of gourds and squashes appear on supermarket and green grocer’s shelves.  They are so beautiful, it’s almost a shame to eat them.  Indeed, my mother would often have a bowl full of different coloured and shaped squashes as decoration around this time of year, but I don’t recall her ever cooking with them. 



But they are in fact absolutely delicious, roast wonderfully and are particularly good stuffed with a chunky, cheesy sauce.  We had some Shropshire blue cheese in the fridge that was calling out to be used in this, but any strong blue cheese would work, really.  If you aren’t a fan, Parmesan or goats cheese make for good substitutes. 

Stuffed Globe Courgettes
(serves 2)

You will need:
2 globe courgettes
1 large portabella mushroom
1/4 leek or 1 banana shallot
olive oil
1 garlic clove
salt, pepper
rosemary sprigs
100g Shropshire blue cheese or other strong cheese
2 tbsp creme fraiche

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.  Cut the tops off of the courgettes to create ‘lids.’  Scoop and scrape out the flesh to create cavernous spaces.  Reserve the excess courgette.

2.  Finely chop the leek or shallot and portabella mushroom.  Fry the leeks/shallot in some olive oil before adding the mushrooms.  Saute for a few minutes while you chop up the inside bits of the courgette and mince the garlic clove.

3.  Add the garlic and courgette to the pan and keep frying.  Season with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.

4.  Add 75g of the crumbled cheese and the creme fraiche and let bubble away over a low heat until all the cheese has melted.  Pour the mixture into the scooped out courgettes.

5.  Top with the remaining cheese and put the ‘lids’ back on.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Serve with a fresh green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette.

Popeye, the sailor man!

Been working overtime and weekends at the gallery so dinner last night had to be a vitamin fest to keep me going!

I made these carrot, courgette and cumin cakes by grating some carrots, courgette, onion and garlic into a bowl, mixing an egg and some flour (wholewheat spelt, but whatever) salt, pepper, mustard seeds, cumin and paprika. Formed into cake-like shapes and fried in a little olive oil for about 8 minutes on each side.

A not so flash

…in the pan
Added a spinach salad and some sweet potato mash with halloumi and felt like Popeye.

While I was waiting for these to cook, my old friend Jen called for a natter. I was absent mindedly staring out the window while on the blower to her, when I finally discovered the source of the funny roof noises that have been keeping me awake!

I think it might live up there!

For the Soul…

I’ve had a bit of a break from my blogging activities last week due to illness. Fret not! I only had a bog standard cold. Made myself a bowl of hearty chicken soup to re-fuel. It’s just chicken and veg (onions, swede, carrots, peppers) plenty of stock and spices (turmeric, cumin and paprika).


Served it with some courgettes and cheese on toast (see recipe below) and I began to feel better straight away… Well, after some sleep and plenty of lemsip.

You will need:

Cheddar (grated)
Courgette (grated)
A shallot or half a red onion
A dash of fish sauce or Worcester sauce
Salt
Pepper

Bread

In a large bowl, mix together your grated cheddar and courgette, the chopped onion or shallot a dash or two of sauce and a good bit of salt and pepper.

Spread onto some lightly toasted bread and place under a warm grill for a bout 5-7 min