“First the vegetable plot – tomorrow the world.” It’s that time of year again, when only a daily inspection stops the courgettes from growing into blimps the size of the Hindenburg and using our gardens as launchpads in their bid for global domination.
Yes, your country needs you. You too can do your bit in keeping this menace under control. Arm yourself with a sharp knife, don your stoutest apron and get ready to go over the top. (He wasn’t called Lord Kitchener for nothing, you know.)
Actually, I really like courgettes, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing and that’s when you’ll find me making guerilla raids in the dead of night, hanging anonymous carrier bags full of overgrown summer squash from my neighbours’ door knobs.
If you find yourself in a similar position, you might like to try my recipes for raw courgette, fennel and radish salad, courgette fritters, griddled courgette salad with feta and mint, and spicy fried courgettes here; or my stuffed courgette flowers, roasted Mediterranean vegetables with chorizo and halloumi and lemon courgette cake with lemon drizzle topping here.
This, though, is a very simple Italian courgette salad my sisters-in-law enjoyed in Venice recently and our combined attempt at replicating it. Our courgettes this year are yellow – a mix of yellow and green would look particularly attractive.
Be restrained with the dressing – it shouldn’t overwhelm the delicacy of the courgettes. Cooking them whole before cutting them up stops them going slushy. As Kitchener (should have) said: “Just because we’re British doesn’t mean we have to eat overcooked vegetables.”
Venetian Courgette Salad
6 or 8 small courgettes (about 4″-5″ long)
Light olive oil
Keeping the courgettes whole, steam them until they are tender to the tip of a knife but still slightly al dente – five minutes should be about right, depending on size. Drain on kitchen paper.
Halve them lengthways, then cut each half, lengthways again, into two, three or four batons, depending on size. Blot them again on kitchen paper.
Place in a bowl and toss gently with a very little olive oil and lemon juice to taste, a scrap of finely chopped garlic and a good handful of chopped fresh parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange on a plate and serve as a side salad or as part of a selection of cicchetti, the Venetian version of tapas.