A guide to the many versions and virtues of this most summery of vegetables
“Courgettes are one of those vegetables that to me, are synonymous with summer,” says Borough Market demonstration chef Lesley Holdship. A quick trot around the Market’s grocers makes it easy to see why. Green, yellow, striped, baby—even giant marrows (essentially courgettes that qualify for a free bus pass)—stare back at you from colourful displays. “It’s a wonderful vegetable that makes for such a beautiful addition to so many dishes,” she continues. “They’re easy to cook with, too, and very versatile—depending on the way they are prepared, courgettes can bring both sweet and savoury nuances to a dish.”
If you are breaking out the barbecue—between the showers—Lesley suggests thickly slicing the courgette, dressing it with lemon and rapeseed oil, then throwing it on the barbecue. “The inside becomes lovely and creamy, while the skin keeps a bit of bite and the whole thing picks up a smoky, charred flavour”—excellent paired with creamy burrata. Another idea is to slice the courgettes in half lengthways, season generously with salt and pepper, then cover with a gratin made with crumbled blue cheese, creme fraiche and breadcrumbs. Bake at 180C for about 45 minutes, or until the gratin is sizzling.
Vibrant and fresh
“They are also very nice poached in a coconut curry with prawns and spinach, served with jasmine rice, or you can ribbon cut or spiralise them and leave them raw. Dress the raw courgette with pesto, sun dried tomatoes and rocket leaves and you have a robust summer salad. If you use both green and yellow courgettes, it looks wonderfully vibrant and fresh. There are just so many things you can do with them,” the chef enthuses—a sentiment echoed by chef, author and Market Life columnist Thom Eagle, who likes his cooked close to the heat or else braised into “total submission”.
If you find yourself with a glut of courgettes too large to bake or braise your way out of, try preserving them. “They are one of those vegetables that work very well pickled and there is a real tradition of this in parts of Europe,” Lesley explains. “They also work well preserved in oil.” While these techniques were developed as a way of making them last longer, they impart extra flavour and alter the texture of the vegetable, opening up even more ways to enjoy it.
Lastly (if you’re lucky enough to find some), don’t forget the flowers: “They are delicious stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixed with fragrant herbs like chives, parsley, or thyme,” says Lesley. “Dip the whole thing in a light, tempura-style batter, fry them until golden and crispy—a minute at most—and serve with a lemony dill dip.”