No matter how well I think I have planned my veggie patch, I always end up having more courgettes than I can comfortably manage to eat. And once they start coming, they can’t seem to stop. Each day there’s another couple sneakily hiding under their huge leaves. And friends won’t take them as they all seem to have their own courgette mountain to deal with.
Don’t get me wrong, I like courgettes, but there’s a limit to how many times a week you can happily incorporate courgettes into the menu, and they are not a veg that take well to freezing. So creative thinking is called for if they are not to be consigned to the compost heap.
The first rule in the courgette war is to be vigilant. Don’t let the little devils get too big, as smaller is sweeter, which generally means nicer to eat. Small courgettes, especially the yellow variety, can be treated like cucumbers and eaten raw, either sliced into salads, made into batons for dips, or grated into crunchy slaws.
Larger specimens make a good soup. Simply fry some chopped bacon and a little onion in a splash of olive oil, add a chopped potato, then 2-3 chopped courgettes. Give it a good stir, then pour in 600ml stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 mins. Blend until smooth, adding a handful of basil leaves if you have them. Return to the pan and stir in a little milk, salt and pepper. This will give you enough for 2-3 good servings, but if you want to make a double batch, it will freeze quite nicely.
My friend Sandy gave me a good tip. She grates a couple of courgettes, pats them dry and stirs them into thick pancake batter, then fries them to make small blinis to serve with drinks. Top with a blob of soured cream and prosciutto or smoked salmon, or make large ones for lunch or supper, topped with a poached egg and some crispy bacon. Or stir in a little crumbled feta and some chopped mint to upgrade them to a starring role on the plate.
Probably my all time favourite treatment is one from Claudia Roden’s book, Arabesque. Simply chop the courgettes roughly and boil until tender, then drain. Chop them up, then mash them with a fork in the colander to get as much water out as possible. Fry some halved cherry tomatoes and a couple of sliced cloves of garlic in olive oil until tender, then stir in the courgettes, salt, pepper and coriander or parsley. This is such a good side dish with grilled meat or fish, and any leftovers are good cold as a sauce or dip.
If you are after more ideas to use up a glut, then discover our complete courgette recipe collection for more inspiration. And if anyone out there has some other brilliant ideas for this most prolific of vegetables, do let us know.