Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Coping with a courgette glut

The courgette-marrow spectrum
Layering veg for a crustless quiche

Half an hour later
Spot the yellow flecks of courgette
Young courgettes, ideal for the BBQ
And then there's the flowers to eat as well
First piece of advice: pick 'em small. I like to pick ours at roughly half the typical supermarket size (as at the far end of the courgette spectrum on the right). At that stage, the courgettes are so tender and tasty that they can be chopped raw into salads. It's a lot easier to deal with 20 small courgettes than with 20 marrows. This typically means daily picking, so if you're only visiting your courgette patch on the weekends, it's marrows for you! If you grow yellow varieties the fruit are a lot easier to spot and you won't get as many hiding and making it to marrow size.

If you do end up with marrows, my favourite recipe is spicy fried marrow rings:
Cut the marrow into 1cm-thick discs and press out the seeds with your fingers, making rings. Mix 3tbsp of flour with 1tsp coriander, 1tsp chilli powder and 1/2tsp salt. Dip the marrow rings into the flour mixture on both sides and fry in vegetable oil until the flesh is soft and the outside crispy on both sides. Serve with yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Other marrow options include stuffing with mince, making marrow jam (surprisingly tasty though not quite a substitute for a good berry jam) or using it as part of a piccallili pickle mix.

However, I do prefer courgettes before they get to marrow stage. Then my currently preferred recipe is to turn them into a crustless quiche, which is a simple and super tasty way of using up whatever you've happen to have in the garden:
Butter a pie dish and layer with vegetables. Start with a layer of onion slices, followed by sliced courgettes (peas, broad beans, chard and broocoli are also very good in this) and some chives. Mix 250ml cream with 4 eggs, season with salt and pepper. Pour over the layered vegetables and top with grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 170°C. Serve hot or cold.

Courgette cake is a fun way to use courgettes, though not necessarily a good glut coping strategy, since you only need one or two per cake. Here's an easy courgette bran loaf, which is our standard elevenses bite. It's not very sweet and best served with butter and homemade jam. If you make it often enough (we get through one every two days) you'll eliminate a fair number of courgettes.
Mix together 1 cup wheat bran, 1 cup sultanas, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 cup milk. Leave to stand for an hour. Then add 1 cup wholemeal flour, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 cup grated courgette and 1 egg. Mix and spoon into a greased loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes at 150°C. This is a very flexible cake. You can use grated carrot or beetroot instead of courgette or 1 cup of berries such as currants, blueberries or raspberries.

Another good way of eating young courgettes is as the original vegetarian sausage. Rub with vegetable oil, salt, pepper and herbs, wrap in foil and toss on the barbecue. Or dip in beer batter (100g flour, 1tsp ground fennel seeds, 1tsp chilli powder, 1/2tsp salt and enough ale to make up to double cream consistency) and pop into the deep-fat fryer.

Then, of course, there are all the usual Mediterranean recipes that you can throw courgettes into: risotto, lasagne, ratatouille, bolognese sauce, carbonara sauce etc. And you can even make a tasty sandwich spread from courgettes.

Possibly the best way to use up a lot of courgettes in one go is to make relish. This is very useful stuff and keeps well, too.

Whatever you do, don't freeze your courgettes, raw or blanched (though cooked, in a dish such as ratatouille is fine). The texture goes all rubbery. Some people dry their courgettes in thin slices - I tried this once but didn't find the result particularly appetising or useful. However, I'm willing to try again if someone suggests a good way of using the dried courgette slices.

If you still have any courgettes left over, give them to friends, family and passers by. People are usually delighted to receive them - unless they have a glut of their own to deal with!

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