Hallelujah! Put the flags out! I’ve finally found a courgette recipe my husband actively enjoys. To be honest that’s mostly because the offending vegetables (fruits, whatever) are camouflaged beneath a thick blanket of cheese and breadcrumbs, but my goodness, we’re getting through the heatwave-induced glut pretty darned fast. Turns out these crispy, cheesy courgettes can convert even the most died-in-the-wool summer squash sceptic.
I have our friend Karon to thank. She came home from a wedding in Tuscany with a version of this recipe. And covid, as it happens, but her pleasure in finding a courgette dish her husband, too, would eat was undiminished. What is it with men and courgettes? Honestly.
At its simplest this is basically courgettes cooked au gratin. You can fancy it up with garlic, herbs and/or chilli if you like, but the chief pleasure is that crispy, cheesy crunch. Sometimes less is more. Karon’s recipe uses Emmental, I used a farmhouse Gouda given to us by a Dutch friend, plus some Parmesan. I think any well-flavoured cheese would work here, so if what you have in the fridge is Cheddar, go for it..
Quantities and timings really depend on the number and size of courgettes you’re cooking but here’s how I did it.
Heat the oven to 220C/200 fan/425F/Gas Mark 7.
Take six small to medium courgettes (not blimps), topped and tailed and sliced in half lengthways. Scoop out the seedy bit with a teaspoon to leave a central channel. I fed the scraps to our over-heated hens but you can save them for soup if you like.
Place in a lined baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
Mix white breadcrumbs and Gouda roughly 50/50 (I used about 50g of each) and stir through a big handful of pinenuts. Pile onto the courgettes, scatter over some grated Parmesan and trickle with olive oil. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the topping is brown and crispy.
The courgettes should be cooked through but with a bit of bite and still firm enough for you to pick up without them flopping. If you prefer yours softer you can reduce the oven temperature to 200C/180 fan and cook them for about five minutes longer. Keep an eye on the pinenuts, though, they burn easily.
Remove to a serving plate using a fish slice, scatter with basil leaves and serve while still warm. They make a good starter but I’ve also served them as a side.