I CAN’T let the summer slip away without mentioning one of our great British crops – the courgette. You’ll find them in abundance at the moment and they’re at their best until late September so pick up a few next time you’re grocery shopping.
Until fairly recently the use of courgettes in home cooking was pretty limited and uninspiring; the vibrant and flavoursome vegetable was usually destined for boring vegetarian lasagnes, veggie kebabs or bland tasting ratatouille.
Lately, courgettes have seen a massive surge in popularity amongst the healthy food squad as ‘courgetti’ became the fashionable replacement for carb-loaded pasta. But there’s so much more that this summer crop has to offer and it’s an incrediblly versatile vegetable to keep in stock.
Although most people assume courgettes should be cooked, they actually taste delicious raw.
Try them thinly sliced with a little dressing alongside some cooked meat or fish or toss them into salads for an extra layer of flavour. Or chop them up and add them to pickles and chutneys for a bit of extra crunch.
Courgettes can also be used instead of noodles in Asian style dishes, or instead of pasta as previously discussed.
Surprisingly, courgettes are also a great addition to breads and cakes and add texture and moisture to bakes (it’s also a sneaky way to get children to eat more vegetables!).
Of course, there are the more traditional ways to incorporate courgettes into your home cooking; they are a fantastic addition to pasta dishes or summer soups. Or slice them lengthways and brush them with a little oil and grill them on the BBQ.
One great way to prepare courgettes is to roast them with a selection of other seasonal vegetables and serve them with some meat, fish or cheese. This tasty goat’s cheese bruschetta is one of my favourite summer dishes and it’s been a firm favourite in the restaurant for many years. The sweetness and texture of the roasted vegetables compliments the saltiness and richness of the cheese.
If you’re not a fan of goat’s cheese you can use a good quality brie, blue cheese or halloumi instead.
Mediterranean Vegetable & Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 x 100g goat’s cheese rounds
4 spring onions, sliced
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, cut into quarters with stalk and seeds removed
1 courgette, cut length ways
1 aubergine, sliced into 2cm discs
2 red onions, cut into quarters
2 cloves of garlic
4 thick slices of ciabatta bread
Handful of fresh basil
A few sprigs of rosemary
Balsamic glaze or syrup (available from most supermarkets)
Sea salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200c.
Place the vegetables in a large roasting tin and mix together with the garlic cloves and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured but still quite firm.
Lightly toast the bread and rub the surface with roasted garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Arrange the vegetables on top of the bread and place a round of goat’s cheese on each one. Return to the grill for a few minutes until the cheese begins to brown and bubble.
Meanwhile, toss the rocket, olive oil, balsamic and basil together in a bowl and arrange on top of your cooked bruschetta. Add a little black pepper.