Archive for ‘Courgettes’

October 15, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Spaghetti squash with saffron infused stew of chickpeas and courgette, oven dried tomatoes and feta

Real-world followers will know this isn’t last night’s dinner but the dinner of 24 September. We had received a variety of squash in our weekly veg box that I didn’t recognise. Spaghetti squash, I thought, I bet it’s spaghetti squash. I was right.

Spaghetti squash is so called because when it is cooked its flesh comes apart in strands rather than chunks or a straightforwardly mashed texture. Which is all very well, but what to do with it?

First things first, I wanted to have some piquancy in the dish: half some cherry tomatoes, place them on a baking tray and cook them in the oven at a very, very low heat for anywhere between 2-3 hours. In fact don’t cook them so much as warm them, wither them, dry them out. With the moisture gone they are going to provide an incredible hit of tomato flavour. Promise.

Right, onto the main event. Half the squash and scrape out the seeds with a metal spoon. Place the squash, cut side up, in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and rub in a teaspoon of ground cumin to the surface of the flesh. Roast in the oven at 190 degrees celsius for 30-40 minutes or until the flesh is soft when you prod it with a fork. At this point remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes so the squash can be handled. Then, with a fork, start lifting the flesh from the skin, pulling it away gently. Those spaghetti like strands should start to appear. Spread the flesh loosely over the bottom of a baking/casserole dish.

While the squash is cooking, sautee an onion in a little olive oil in a deep frying pan. When it has softened, after five minutes or so, add a chopped courgette and a chopped fresh red chilli. Stir and cook for another five minutes. Then add two tins of chickpeas. Stir again.

Take a small pinch of saffron strands and infuse them in 500ml of vegetable stock for five minutes (you’ll need to ensure the stock is hot). Add the saffron stock to the chickpeas, onion and courgette. Sprinkle a level teaspoon of ground cinnamon into the pan and a teaspoon of ground cumin. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes. If the mixture completely dries out, add a splash of water to loosen it.

When done, spoon the chickpea mix over the spaghetti squash in the casserole dish, letting the juices soak into the squash. Dot the oven dried tomatoes into the topping and break some small pieces of feta into the mix too.

Bake in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes.

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September 24, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Vegetable tagine

I wish our photograph did this dinner justice. (My excuse: steam rising into the camera and not being sure whether I was focusing on the plate of food or the mortar of fiery chilli sauce.) Oh well.

But in many ways the half-thought-through snap reflects the nature of this day’s eating. I didn’t get to the shop and didn’t know what we were going to eat until late in the day. Dinner, it seemed, was going to be a ramshackle affair.

And so, indecision produced this, a tagine – made, as it happens, in a big old tagine cooking pot, from which of course the recipe gets its name. We do sometimes cook a ‘tagine’ in a normal saucepan but there’s something rather nice about the way a tagine cooks the food inside it – all that steam rolling around in there to produce a dish that softens up to the point of falling apart in no time at all. Something happens with the flavours. I’m not sure how it happens but I like it.

In any case, this was cobbled together so quickly: a rummage around the kitchen cupboard and fridge produced an onion, a piece of marrow and a courgette, some peppers, a carrot, a potato, a couple of tomatoes, a tin of chickpeas… you get the idea: all the stuff we hadn’t quite made use of but nothing that shouted “use me, base your meal around me”. Hence: a stew. A north African stew, perhaps, but a stew nonetheless.

Special ingredients? Well, I also discovered some dried apricots and some toasted almonds. Perfect. And, literally, everything got chopped and put into the bowl of the tagine with a few teaspoons of ground cumin and cinnamon, plus a little vegetable stock. It was then cooked until the vegetables were soft and served with some cous cous and that fiery chilli sauce (a few chillis, a clove of garlic and a little olive oil bashed up in that there mortar).

As summer turns to autumn, a stew like this, using up the end of the season’s veg, is really rather delightful. Not bad for a ramshackle affair.

September 12, 2012

So September has come and the days are suddenly a little cooler. Summer is gone – what we had of it. But between the rains of June and July and the collective moment of forgetting everyone took through the Olympics and Paralympics, there were some occasional sunny, warm days. Summer did happen. We have the evidence here in the shape of some pictures of a back garden barbecue.

But what do you cook for a vegetarian at a barbecue? Nothing? C’mon! Buy some frozen veggie burgers and heat them through? Ugh. Make them a salad? What, to soak up the beer and wine? Don’t invite them? Jeez.

It’s a shame that more people don’t realise how much can cooked on a barbecue. Grilling vegetables, fruit and even cheese is simple – much easier than cooking meat, from what I gather from watching others – and is pretty much a surefire way of welcoming non carnivores to the party.

My theory is that a barbecue involves two things: smoke and good quality ingredients – ones that you’d enjoy eating if they were cooked in another way. Simple.

For us at ETP Towers, that means grilling skewers of mixed vegetables over charcoal. Try florets of cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, artichoke and beetroot. Mix the veg with cubes of halloumi and fruit – my favourite, mango, or even a strawberry. We also grill flat mushrooms, strips of aubergine and courgette and, of course, corn on the cob, par-boiled for a few minutes first.

For a marinade we often use a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a herb – thyme maybe, or rosemary – and chilli maybe, too.

Ella’s fab veggie burgers, here, would also go down a treat.

There are more spectacular things to barbecue – aubergine rolls with all kinds of fillings, chilli polenta slices, for example – but some of the above is so easy, so quick, that the question of what to feed a vegetarian at a barbecue should never need be asked again.

September 9, 2012

Recipe: Paul Gayler’s courgette and fennel bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse on a vegetarian food blog? Is there something fishy going on? Not at all.

Paul Gayler, a man who’s pretty good with vegetables, turns the classic fish soup from Marseille into a late summer stew that is fragrant and filling – especially if a slab of crusty bread is at hand to soak up some of the broth.

The recipe is at the Telegraph website, here.

This will be made, and hastily eaten no doubt, in the next few days.

August 25, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer vegetable and goat’s cheese bruschetta

Until recently there hasn’t been much summer round these parts, which means we haven’t done what we usually do with our dinners at this time of year.

But… the sun has started making occasional appearances and thoughts have turned to lighter meals that make the most of delicate summer flavours and fragrances. And bruschetta – we haven’t made bruschetta in, well, ages. Certainly not since we moved from London last year.

Bruschetta. Stuff on toast. Wild mushrooms and thyme; roasted cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; sweet roasted peppers with chilli and parmesan; chargrilled aubergine, ricotta and pesto… all with a good hunk of lightly toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a good olive oil. Yum.

We had none of the variations above on this occasion. What we had was half a loaf of bread from the Village Deli in Wivenhoe (they do good bread, I try not to look at it as I pass – I’d eat little else), plus a few leftovers from our weekly veg box and recent trips to the supermarket. Which meant we had courgettes, beetroot, broad beans, a green pepper, some grilled globe artichoke hearts, a mild red chilli – and a nice block of crumbly-ish, creamy goat’s cheese (again, from the aforementioned Deli).

The only method with this is to treat each ingredient with respect: so, the peppers and beet are roasted separately, in a little olive oil, and chopped into chunks; the chilli goes with the pepper and is then sliced; courgettes get sliced and cooked on a griddle; broad beans are shelled, blanched for 4 minutes and slipped from their pithy skins; artichokes, already cooked, are ready to go.

When it’s all done, toast the bread, rub it with garlic while it’s still hot, and pile up the veg on top, attractively if possible, interspersed with the broken-up goat’s cheese. And then drizzle with a little olive oil.

Does bruschetta really require a recipe? I don’t know: it’s just toast with stuff on it. Nice stuff though. And nice toast. And a nice, light, summer’s evening meal.

September 15, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Italian bean soup with basil

Wednesday 24 August

A rather delicious bowlful of soup from Ella, who will often pep up a tomato-based Italianate recipe with the addition of some basil leaves, garlic, and olive oil, pounded with a mortar and pestle. It’s a good trick and produces something akin to pesto, but with a bit more tang and a little less gloop – great to have a spoonful with some soup.

Essentially, this is hearty one-pot stuff, taking an onion, garlic, chilli, pepper, courgette, tomatoes, a tin of butter/borlotti/pinto beans, and some stock and bringing them all together.

So, in a large, deep saucepan or stockpot, fry a sliced onion for 5 minutes until soft, then add two cloves of chopped garlic and some fresh chilli (as much as you like). After 2 minutes add a sliced bell pepper, seeds and pithy bits removed. Cook for 5 more minutes then add a roughly diced courgette. Stir. Then add either a tin of chopped tomatoes or 4-5 medium tomatoes, skins removed and chopped. Stir again then add a litre of vegetable stock or water. Simmer for as long as it takes for the liquid to reduce and the soup become, well, soupy. The longer the better really as the flavours increase with time on the hob. Serve with the basil ‘sauce’.

I think that’s how Ella made it, in any case.

And one final thing, we did already allude to this soup in an earlier post, here. Which leads me to say that yes, this is our weekday variation.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer quinoa salad

Wednesday 10 August

Beans, beetroot, courgettes… all grown in a local allotment and looking for a home… All we wanted was something that could bind these summery ingredients together… a bed for them to rest in, but one that would allow their individual flavours to shine.

I popped up to the deli and nabbed some quinoa and a tin of chickpeas and got to work. We would once have made this light meal with cous cous, but as we’re avoiding too much wheatiness quinoa is now our preferred alternative.

The method? As straightforward as it looks: cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions, roast the beetroot whole (for about 50 minutes) and then peel and chop into segments (like a Terry’s chocolate orange), shallow fry a chopped onion and courgette, slice the beans into 3cm sections then boil for 4 or 5 minutes and drain.

When everything is ready, combine in a large bowl with the drained chickpeas, drizzle over a little good extra virgin olive oil, and mix through. A simple way to use up some late-summer ingredients from the veg patch.

August 21, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Marrow, Tomato and Chickpea Massala

Tuesday 9 August

What to do with a marrow, those overgrown courgettes of delicate flesh and almost no flavour. Hmmm. We’d never cooked one before but inherited one from our neighbour. An internet search brought up a Southeast Asian recipe from Simon Hopkinson. It’s made with cherry tomatoes. Yeah, it shouldn’t work, should it?! But it does.

Except, we added some chickpeas and a little chilli. But apart from that followed the recipe, here.

It’s really good: the marrow flesh falling-apart soft, the tomatoes tangy and a warm zip of spices. It’s not often we make something that’s basically, er, ‘Indian’, but that isn’t like anything we’ve tasted before. And it really didn’t sound promising.

Nice one Simon.

August 16, 2011

Recipe: Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

Yes, you read right. We were looking for a quick pasta and courgette dish, given my earlier comments regarding the abundance of those deep green, erm, truncheons at this time of year. First up on the internet came a recipe from our old friend Yotam Ottolenghi, although from a not very local source, namely the New York Times.

The recipe, which in a British translation is for Penne with Courgette and Mozzarella, is here and very good it looks too.

August 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Puy Lentils with Roast Courgettes, Green Beans and Parsely

Sunday 7 August

Courgettes are everywhere in early August and, I confess, it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve really taken to eating them. Earlier this year we tried them as fritters, rather like the corn ones in the post before this. The courgette fritter recipe is here.

This Sunday we wanted a fairly hearty supper with some summery flavours to boot and this was a simple solution.

First, for two people, slice 2-3 medium courgettes into thumb-sized batons. (What? Okay, halve the courgettes lengthways, then halve them across their middles, then halve them lengthways again.)

Place the courgette batons in an ovenproof dish, lightly toss them with some olive oil and some salt and pepper and place them in a preheated oven until they’re golden of flesh but not completely browned.

While you’re doing this, in a large saucepan boil around 2 cups of puy lentils in vegetable stock until they’re tender – about 25 minutes. Also, very finely slice a large onion and fry until translucent in a little olive oil.

Next, roughly chop some fresh green beans – we had a mix of runner and french beans (okay, and some yellow and black skinned beans too) – and steam them for 4 minutes before refreshing them under a cold tap.

When the lentils are cooked (drain them if there is much water left and return to the pan), add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, stir and leave for 2 minutes. Then stir in the onion. Next stir in the courgettes.

Finally, stir in the chopped fresh parsley, season if needed, and eat.