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Market Stars #8 - Courgettes and their attachments

Gosh, there are courgette flowers in the markets, and gosh, it’s exciting. And if the prices are anything to go on, there’s a glut in the UK right now. Last year, I was buying courgette flowers at around £2.50 each, which was a real treat. Last week, I picked up four for £3. If that’s not uplifting, I don’t know what is.

I’ve written before about Egizia, the wonderful lady in the Italian hills who taught me to make a sformato and shaped so much of my love for appreciating the seasons. Well, one sunny evening in her kitchen, she also showed me her prosecco-battered courgette flowers (over a glass or two – that woman loved a gossip).

And one sunny evening in lockdown, feeling a bit down about, you know, everything – I decided to make her courgette flowers. Looking at the prosecco bottle, I had a brainwave – how about Pornstar Martini Courgette Flowers?

Hear me out. The prosecco-battered courgette flowers are stuffed with a lemon and basil whipped ricotta. They sit on top of a shaved raw courgette salad, with blobs of a tart passionfruit coulis. Serve with a shot of prosecco and you’ve got a decadent plate showcasing the whole vegetable.

And so we get to what’s attached to those gorgeous, crunchy flowers. We’re in the season of baby courgettes, which are IMHO one of the ultimate summer vegetables. They’re vividly green, tender and have a fresh sweetness that puts the average all-year courgette to shame. If it weren’t psychopath behaviour, I’d snack on these whole and raw all summer long.

Another way of showing off these seasonal stars is Spaghetti alla Nerano (sort of), which I’ve also topped with stuffed courgette flowers. Thanks to the dapper efforts of Stanley Tucci, this dish is enjoying a new wave of popularity, and it’s well due. My version was deeply inauthentic: I’m sure it’s not Neranese to add lemon, and instead of basil I tossed the pasta with handfuls of the fresh mint that’s taken over the garden of a friend’s new house, so it’s a little bit of Costiera-Amalfitana-meets-Balham.

And for a heatwave lunch, when you really can’t face frying? Here’s a Chilled Courgette and Basil Soup that looks as sweet in shot glasses as a canape as it does drizzled with a really good olive oil in a shallow dish.

And finally, no pictures or formal recipe for this one but I’ve been making a Shaved Courgette, Mint and Pea Salad about five times a summer for the last decade because I do think courgettes should often be eaten raw. I love this with a fish barbecue, and a fancy tomato salad.

All you do is blanch some peas (frozen is fine, fresh is sweeter), shave some courgettes with a peeler and tear a handful of mint to pieces. Tumble it all on a plate with a glug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some flaked sea salt. If you’re feeling schmancy, crumble over feta, add lemon zest, add chopped black olives – the possibilities are endless.

Let me know how you get on.


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