Gluts and Gluttony

Image of courgettes growing in the gardenglut, acccording to my dictionary, is “an excessively abundant supply” of something.  Courgettes (zucchini) are one of those vegetables that virtually define the word.

Like buses, they all come at once. If you have even one courgette plant you are probably swamped with small green or yellow zeppelins and beginning to cast around for new and original ways to eat them.

I have collated and created so many courgette recipes over the years that this will probably end up being a two-part post.

In dictionary terms the word glut is related to gluttony. But not everyone wants to gorge on a courgette.

Image of courgettes and their flowers

I have noticed a peculiar gender divide. Most of the women I know like them, most of the men detest them. I have no idea why this is. My husband battles me every year on the amount of ground they’re allowed to occupy in the kitchen garden.

They are, admittedly, thugs which monster neighbouring plants. But they’re amazingly versatile in the kitchen.

You can eat them cooked or raw, in soups, salads, fritters and frittatas, you can stuff the flowers and even make a cake (I’ll come back to that in a later post).

Image of sliced courgettes

Courgettes are naturally watery and I think they’re best picked small and cooked so they still have a bit of bite, otherwise they tend to go a bit squishy. For this reason I never, ever boil them, although I do sometimes steam them briefly. Mostly (call the diet police) I fry them.

Try slicing them into rings, frying them in butter until just golden on both sides, then squeezing in some lemon juice and mixing in some torn basil leaves. Yum. Or nom, as I believe people under 30 say these days. Whatever, they’re delicious.

Image of yellow courgettes in a black bowl

I often make a courgette frittata – check out my asparagus frittata recipe (Portly passim) and just substitute lightly fried courgette rings for the asparagus, along with a small handful of ripped up basil leaves.

But if you’re overwhelmed with courgettes and running low on inspiration, you might like to check out a few ideas here … these recipes all make lovely, summery lunch or supper dishes and most of them are very quick to prepare. And they’re all vegetarian.

Raw Courgette, Fennel and Radish Salad

Image of raw courgette fennel and radish saladTake a nice fat fennel bulb, trimmed of its tough outer leaves, or the thinnings from your garden or, if like mine, your fennel has bolted, whatever you can salvage. Add a couple of medium-sized courgettes and a handful of peppery red radishes and slice them all thinly, preferably using a mandoline.

Keep the fennel fronds, chop some and add to a lemony vinaigrette and save a few for a garnish.

Mix the sliced vegetables with the dressing, arrange on a plate, and scatter with the remaining fennel fronds. Colourful and crunchy and really fresh-tasting.

Crispy Courgette Fritters

Image of a stack of courgette fritters

Even courgette haters like these. Just slice the courgettes thinly lengthways, dip into seasoned, beaten egg and then into a mix of fine polenta (cornmeal) and grated parmesan. Go heavy on the parmesan.

Heat some oil in a large flat frying pan and fry in batches until the fritters are turning golden brown but the courgette still has a bit of bite.

Griddled Courgette Salad with Feta and Mint

Image of griddled courgette salad with feta and mint

Thinly slice three or four shallots, split them into rings and put them into a vinaigrette made from 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of olive oil plus salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Set side for the onions to soften.

Slice four medium courgettes lengthways and fry quickly in batches on a lightly oiled griddle so you get them nice and stripey. Drop them straight into the vinaigrette while they’re still hot.

Or if you can’t be bothered to cook, just slice them into long thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the seedy bit in the middle and again, drop them into the dressing.

Arrange on a plate with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and scatter with crumbled feta cheese and roughly chopped mint and basil and add some finely sliced red chilli if you like it.

A few courgette flowers, if you have them, make an attractive garnish.

Spicy Fried Courgettes

Image of spicy fried courgettes

This is a handy recipe if you’ve got an escapee that’s trying to grow into a marrow – although it’s just as good with normal-sized courgettes.

Trim the ends of the courgettes and dice into small cubes.

Mix together 2 oz/60g of plain flour and a tablespoon (or more to taste) of garam masala and some salt and pepper.

Just before you want to eat – not before or it’ll go all soggy and claggy on you – toss the courgette cubes in the spiced flour.

Grate 2 oz/60g of fresh peeled root ginger and fry it in 3 tablespoons of olive oil for a second or two before adding the diced courgettes. Continue to fry for four or five minutes or until the courgettes are crisp and golden.

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