Thursday, August 20, 2015
Nip them in the bud
It seems the much revered Nigel Slater has decided to jump on my bandwagon with a courgette recipe in the Guardian. I quite like the boy, I've even bought one of his books if only to give away, and although I might give his effort a try, for me it falls into the category of why bother. Like all recipes where a bit of courgette is added to a winning recipe be it brownies, pasta sauce or in this case latkes and found to be good one wonders how much better the dish would be /without/ the courgette.
No, I've decided the only way to tackle the green menace (or yellow if you're fancy) is to catch them young, tie them in a bag filled with rocks and throw them .... no, no, no. Is to catch them young and cook them while they're small, tender and you can use up whole handfuls of them in one meal.
Stuffed courgette flowers, with or without a baby courgette attached are actually considered rather desirable, posh food for guests, worth going to a restaurant to enjoy without having the bother of making your own. And they're a delicacy easy to obtain from your own garden.
Pick the whole thing, fruit and flower (you can take fresh male flowers too, it's all good) as the flowers open so gloriously for the first time. Best picked just before use but if the weather is warm and they're needed for the evening pick them early and keep in the cool until you're ready.
They shouldn't need much cleaning, shake out any insects and wipe the courgette part with a bit of damp kitchen towel. Carefully remove the style - the sticky up bit in the middle of the flower - which is easiest by nipping it out between finger and thumb but by all means use scissors or a sharp knife if you prefer. Try to keep the petals as unbroken as possible.
It's not necessary to slice and fan the baby fruit as I have done in the picture but it was once done like that for me when I had them in a fashionable restaurant at an impressionable age and so I always do them that way. It has some merit, allowing the vegetable to cook through more quickly.
As a starter or light snack you'd only need a couple per person and since they're deep fried it's probably better to do just that but I don't get the fryer out very often when I'm home alone and decided to indulge myself completely. In the picture then a couple of field mushrooms picked from the lawn, some entirely without heat chillies which are excellent for wimps like me and some pickles. I blame the Americans for that.
You don't have to stuff the flowers although it's often done; usually with a ricotta based stuffing. Make your favourite vegan alternative from commercial products or cashews or go off-piste as I did with an ad-hoc (this is a very verbose post!) mixture of what have you. I had some cooked green beans cut small with some grated vegan cheesley and some finely chopped sage bound with a little soya yoghurt. Seasoned with plenty of pepper it worked much better than I expected.
Fill the flowers carefully with a teaspoonful or two of your mixture and gently twist the ends of the petals closed around the stuffing. Don't overfill.
Make a batter to taste. I would recommend the sort of Japanese tempura batter made with rice flour and chilled sparkling water with a few crushed rice noodles stirred through but I only had brown flour and beer lightened with a little gram flour (besan) and made quite thin.
Heat your oil to a medium heat so that the vegetables will cook before the batter burns, dip your veg. into the batter, swirl to coat and allow the excess to drip off before settling them in the oil and frying until golden and crisp. Remove from the oil, drain briefly on kitchen paper and serve immediately. All that greasy goodness will need a dipping sauce, chutney or some nice fresh salsa with it.
That's the way to do it.