Monday, July 28, 2014

10001 ways with a home grown courgette

The courgettes are coming, thick and fast, thin and fat, short and long, bright yellow and two shades of green, pale and dark. So, can tomatoes be far behind?
A rhetorical question.   The answer the soil, of course...and the behaviour of a climate on which we no longer can rely. The wisdom of the ancients, however wittily or obscurely expressed, is no longer of help.   So far A&A's tomatoes have shown no urgency to join the massive courgette production.   Tomatoes are still trucked up from Provence.

like candles in greenery - the yellow courgette.

The courgette, of course, is an inevitable constituent of the 'Mediterranean' diet, at least the vegetable part.   But home cooks soon run out of ideas on presentation and consumers turn as yellow as the vegetable itself if it is offered more than twice a week, undisguised.  So what to do?

Most courgette cooking methods involve frying in some form or other.  So courgettes have to be salted and allowed to stand as excess water drains off. Then, most often combined with aubergines (equally lightened of their water content) onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs, they are reduced to a mush which is proudly presented as ratatouille.  Courgettes can be presented as spaghetti substitute, or better still as papardelle. Still difficult to avoid mushiness.

Once I was served 'grilled' courgettes, thin slices which had been marinated in best olive oil and then laid (gently) on the ridged, cast-iron grill normally used for meat. Delicious - but not to be tried at home, brain damage to prepare and cook.  Believe me, because I did.   Some things really should be left to experts with many hands to assist them.

 The most irresistible courgette dish is zucchini fritti, courgettes cut into match-sticks, battered, deep fried and served immediately.  Not easy in the average domestic kitchen.  However, the American technique of 'shake and bake' means zucchini fritti can now be made at home without too much hassle.   Only the usual problems attendant on deep frying.

The original 'shake and bake' flour mixture that I discovered was destined for chicken pieces.   It was just seasoned flour (salt, pepper, possibly some finely ground herbs or spices which was put into a paper bag, the oiled chicken pieces added, the whole shaken - chicken pieces then put into hot oven.  Result: very tasty.

To apply this method to courgettes is simple: use the match-stick blade of the mandolin, put pieces in sieve, sprinkle with salt and allow to disgorge.  Dry lightly in a tea-towel, then tip into a bag with your favourite mixture of seasoned flour.   Shake, deep fry and serve immediately.

This Sunday's mistake was to use self-raising flour, all that I had in store.  Bad planning, I know.   It made for a very sticky mess, zucchini fritti in clumps, rather like onion bhajis, but still delicious.

I love my rose bush.

What not every non gardener may know is that the courge family of vegetables is rampantly aggressive.  Plants will escape over the garden wall, embrace rose bushes.  Observant, Alexandre had an idea.  He would throw courge seeds on the heaps of straw and shit cleared from the sheep sheds.  His theory is that this would speed up the composting activity, and be a more aesthetic cover.

The trouble with home made compost is one never knows exactly what is in it.   This is probably why I have a flourishing cherry tomato plant amongst the petunias of the kitchen window box.

out of my way, petunia


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