Courgette Glut!

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Judging by the generosity of friends lately, courgettes (zucchini) have done rather well in this summer of heat and rain.  I’ve been given fat green, almost marrow ones; slim dark mini ones; acid bright yellow ones and squat round striped ones. Now I’m not one to turn down free produce, ever, but there’s a limit to how much ratatouille a girl can eat so I’ve been searching out alternative recipes to make the most of this August bounty.

First up is the ever-reliable Lime & Courgette Cake, courtesy of Nigella Lawson. Found in her How to be a Domestic Goddess book, this is a recipe I renamed Lime Surprise cake, inviting tasters (especially children) to guess the surprise ingredient. Very few ever did, and all loved the cake, proving to me yet again that sometimes you can smuggle greens into people who might otherwise avoid them…

Lime Surprise Cake

Ingredients:

  • 250g courgettes (2-3)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g self raising flour
  • ½  tsp bicarbonate soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder

filling

lime curd, if shop bought, add juice of a lime to sharpen. If you can’t get lime curd, use lemon and add the juice of lime.

icing

  • 200g cream cheese
  • 100g icing sugar
  • juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 180C/ GM4. Grease and line 21cm cake tin x 2.

Wipe courgettes but don’t peel them. Coarsely grate them and put into a sieve over the sink to allow excess water to drain.

Whisk eggs, oil & sugar together until creamy. Sieve in the flour, bicarb & baking powder and continue to beat until well combined. Fold in the grated courgettes.  Pour mixture into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes until slightly browned and firm to touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 -10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

To make the icing – beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the icing sugar, sieved, and finally the lime juice to taste.

Assemble cake – put one half on a plate, spread the top with lime curd. Put on the top cake and cover with the cream cheese icing. Put in the fridge to firm up before serving.

Note: when unable to get or be bothered to make lime curd, I’ve made this cake in one tin (leave for 45 to 50 mins to bake) and covered it with the cream cheese icing and the zest of a lime – bit like a carrot cake.

Last year I was given buckets of green tomatoes, which I turned into chutney and also jars of pickles. I thought I’d try the same principle with the courgettes. The River Cottage has a fab recipe called Glutney – designed to be adjusted to whatever ingredient you have the most of. http://www.wasteawarenesswales.org.uk/reduce/hfwrecipe.html

Crunchy Courgette Pickles

  • 500g courgettes
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp non-iodised salt

For the pickling liquid

  • 500ml white vinegar
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • ½  tsp juniper berries
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½  tsp dried chilli
  • 1 finely chopped gariic clove
  • 1 dsp chopped dill
  • 1 dsp chopped thyme

Thinly slice the courgettes using a sharp knife, mandolin or slicing blade on a food processor. Put in a bowl with the shallots and sprinkle over the salt. Cover with ice-cold water, stir to dissolve the salt and leave for 1 hr. Drain the courgettes thoroughly and pat dry using kitchen paper or tea towels. If they stay too wet, the water will dilute the pickling solution.

Meanwhile, put the pickling ingredients into a pan and bring to a simmer. Bubble for 3 mins, making sure the sugar has dissolved, then leave to cool until warm but not hot. Add the courgettes and stir. Scoop the mixture into 2 x 500ml sterilised jars. Seal and leave for a few days in the fridge. Kept chilled, these will keep for a couple of months. Rather nice on a burger….

Summer Sunday Lunch

Just need guests

It’s too hot to cook. I’m looking longingly at pictures of summer kitchens from the US and wishing I had one. Next best thing is to get up stupidly early to take advantage of the cooler mornings. I’ve invited my sister and her family for lunch, so my cunning plan is to get as much of the prep done in advance so I can spend Sunday morning wafting round the garden picking flowers and setting a table rather than slaving over a hot stove. So with that in mind I’ve planned a slow roast lamb, to be done overnight in a cool oven, accompanied by a selection of salads.  Strawberry jelly and home made ice-cream for pud.

Trawling round Sainsbury’s – it’s air conditioned, don’t judge me – I found a pack of Albert Bartlett’s Purple Majesty potatoes. Potato salad beckons. Off to the butchers for the lamb – a lovely Welsh lamb shoulder that will feed us and leave plenty of leftovers.  I do love leftovers. Super satisfying to make more than one meal from an ingredient.

Home to prep. I’m making my grandmother’s potato salad – a Hungarian recipe that uses a vinaigrette dressing with sour cream. First boil the potatoes whole, until knife tender. Drain and rinse quickly under cold water, then remove the skins. It’s a bit of a faff, but the flavour is so much better. Thickly slice the potatoes  and toss, while still warm in the dressing. This is made with a tablespoon of smooth dijon mustard, mixed with 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk well and then add 150ml of sour cream. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit – it should be sweet/ sour & creamy.  Add chopped parsley, and half a red onion, chopped finely. Mix well with the potatoes and set aside to cool.

perfectly purple potato salad

Onto the next item – strawberry jelly. I’ve totally cheated and used a jelly packet, but I  added masses of local strawberries. I have in my possession a gloriously retro piece of tupperware – a jelly mould with interchangeable lids to create patterns.  This was the final result – fab isn’t it?! I served it with homemade strawberry ice cream.

Retro jelly

Onto the lamb. It’s still super hot here, hitting 30C by lunch so I’m cooking the lamb overnight using Nigella Lawson’s recipe from Nigella Bites. Super simple, and super delicious.  Get a heavy based roasting tin and heat it on the hob. Put the lamb shoulder, fat side down and let it brown – about 5 minutes. Remove lamb and add 6 cloves of garlic, peeled; 6 shallots, halved; and 2 carrots, halved. Cook for 5 minutes on a high heat, then put lamb back, meat side down this time. Season with salt and pepper. Add 500ml of boiling water and bring to a simmer. Cover loosely with foil and put in a slow oven – 140C (120C fan/ GM1) as you go to bed. In the morning, the lamb will be beautifully tender and as an added bonus, there will be an amazing lamb stock to put aside for another day. Remove lamb from roasting tin – and place on a plate and shred with two forks. At this point, you can recover with foil and leave in the still warm oven. It’s a dish that benefits from being served warm, so that the fat remains juicy and not solidifying.  When ready to serve, arrange a plate with baby spinach/ watercress/ green leaf of your choice; pile on the shredded meat and then add a handful of torn fresh mint leaves and the juice and seeds from a pomegranate. Easiest way to deal with the pomegranate is to halve it, then hold it over the meat and bash the back of it with a spoon. The seeds will rain down, leaving the pith behind.

To add to the rainbow lunch I seemed to be creating, I made a shredded carrot salad – using a recipe I was given in the Ivory Coast. It’s very simple. Crush a clove of garlic into a paste with a pinch of coarse salt. Add the zest and juice of a lemon, and olive oil to form a dressing. Grate 6 carrots, season with salt and pepper and toss with the dressing. Add chopped mint and set aside for an hour before serving to let the flavours develop.

Rainbow Lunch

Lunch is served!!