Use up your courgette glut: Easy Double Chocolate Courgette Cake recipe and Courgette Bake
These prolific vegetables can get tiresome, but all you need is a little creativity.
Words: Jenny Somervell
Last October, courgettes were an astonishing $10 a kilogram. But in summer, most people find their courgette plants outstrip their appetite. You can’t give them away.
Courgettes are one of the most productive vegetables, 3-4 fruit per plant, per week. One big problem is after the fourth consecutive night of stir-fried courgettes, most people are ready for a change. An even bigger problem, if you leave them unpicked? Marrows.
COURGETTE, ZUCCHINI, MARROW?
The word zucchini originated in northern Italy, as do many of the different varieties. ‘Zucca’ is the Italian word for pumpkin or squash. The Italian word ‘zucchini’ basically means ‘little marrow’.
That’s exactly what Curcubita pepo varieties are, the baby fruit of certain types of marrow, harvested immature when 15cm-20cm long. Courgette is the French name for the same plant, but the French harvest when the fruit are even smaller, about 7-14cm.
For this article, I’m using the word courgette, but always check under ‘zucchini’ and ‘courgette’ in seed catalogues.
If you have only ever tried dark green courgettes, you are missing out. One of our favourites is a bright yellow-skinned hybrid. It’s a smaller, non-spreading plant that easily justifies its garden space by livening up our summer stir-fries.
We also love Costata Romanesco, a grey-green Italian variety with prominent ribs and flecks. Although it yields less than other varieties, it makes up for it with its starchy, nutty taste. It also grows lots of male flowers which are great to fry in batter.
There are attractive green and yellow bi-coloured varieties, like Zephyr. Bush scallops (scallopinis) are fun for their small, spherical shape. They come in light green, dark green, and yellow.
JENNY’S TIP: SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
The smaller you pick them, the sweeter courgettes will taste. Ideally you want them about finger-slim, when they are slightly nutty, sweet, and at their most delicious.
If you leave the fruit, they can grow up to a metre long, becoming more fibrous. For marrows, harvest when they are 30cm long. The skin will be tough so they are best peeled, stuffed, and baked.
HOW TO HARVEST
Courgettes are best picked just before use, as the delicate flavour deteriorates quite quickly. Cut, leaving a portion of the stem at the end of the fruit. Pick flowers when they are slightly open, retaining a stem to help with cooking.
8 WAYS TO COOK WITH COURGETTES
Courgettes are high in water, so the less liquid added to them when cooking, the better.
1. Cook on a cast-iron grill or barbecue, drizzled with olive oil and herbs. The delicate flavour is enhanced with a crumbly garnish of salty, white cheese.
2. They are great in slow-cooked ratatouille or added to flans or quiches. You can even make them into jams and pickles.
3. The flowers are considered a delicacy. You won’t find them in supermarkets because they are too delicate to handle. Picking them is a sure way to slow down a plant’s production, and you get a sweeter flavour if the flower is attached to the fruit. The flowers are delicious deep-fried in fritters or tempura, stuffed, sautéed, baked, or used in soups. In parts of Greece they are stuffed with white cheese, usually feta, then deep fried, or baked in a tomato sauce.
4. Cut raw fruit into sticks, and dip into hummus or guacamole.
5. Use a vegetable peeler to cut courgettes into long, thin strips, and coat in a mix of lemon juice, olive oil and pepper.
6. Slice thinly or spiralise, brush with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, spices and herbs, and grill until golden. Great as a snack or tossed in a salad.
7. Shred courgette to make pancakes Greek or Turkish-style, with lots of chopped dill. Fry in olive oil, and serve with yoghurt.
8. Roast with other vegetables, or skewer on kebabs with meats and fruits.
Easy courgette cheese bake
Time: 50 minutes
1 tbsp oil
4 courgettes, sliced
1 onion, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic
pepper & salt
1 tbsp flour
½ cup milk
200g cheddar (‘tasty’) cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C. Oil a shallow oven dish. Layer the courgettes and sliced onion in the dish.
Sprinkle with crushed garlic, 1 tsp salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Bake for 15 -20 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over and stir, then add the milk and top with the cheese. Bake a further 15-20 minutes. Finish under the grill for 5 minutes (if needed) to get a golden-brown top. Serve hot.
Delicious double chocolate courgette cake
Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Courgettes make moist cakes and breads. This is one of my favourite recipes from my time in the US. It’s rich, moist, and you would never guess it contains courgette.
250g sour cream
1½ cups brown sugar
2 large courgettes, ends cut off, grated, with skin on
½ cup peanut oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup large dark chocolate chips
2 tsp baking soda
¼ cup milk, boiling
Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and flour two 20cm cake tins.
Cream the sour cream and brown sugar, then add the eggs, grated courgette and oil. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cocoa into the bowl and mix until combined. Add the chocolate chips.
Dissolve the baking soda in boiling milk and add to the mix. Blend well. Pour into your prepared tins.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.