Blooming delicious: Stuffed courgette flower
The courgette is actually a summer squash which can reach quite a size, much like a marrow, but usually it is harvested when it’s a lot smaller - unless you miss one and leave it to grow to enormous size by mistake.
Called zucchini in North America and Australia it can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden, is a deep yellow or orange colour, says Emma Crowhurst.
In a culinary context, courgettes are treated as a vegetable, which means they are usually cooked and presented as a savoury dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the courgette is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the courgette flower.
The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent courgette. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the courgette plant in the leaf axils and is slightly smaller than the female. Both flowers are edible, and are often used to dress a meal or to garnish the cooked fruit.
Firm and fresh blossoms that are only slightly open are best, with pistils removed from female flowers and stamen removed from male flowers. The stem on the flowers can be retained as a way of giving the cook something to hold onto during cooking, rather than injuring the delicate petals; or they can be removed prior to cooking, or prior to serving.
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There is a variety of recipes in which the flowers may be deep fried as fritters or tempura (after dipping in a light tempura batter), stuffed, saut�ed, baked, or used in soups.
This is really fabulous food, needs no garnish, and its beauty speaks volumes. It just needs a bit of home-grown salad. Flowers attached to the baby courgettes are usually available only if you have grown your own courgettes. In posh supermarkets or at farmers’ markets you may find some - and now you know what to do with them!
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If you have larger courgettes there are many delicious ways to use them up.
Salads: peel courgettes, (after top and tailing) with a wide-head peeler into really thin strips and combine them with strips of carrots, which must be peeled first, before making a really nice dressing with light olive oil, some grainy mustard, some lemon juice, a pinch of sugar or use some pomegranate molasses, which has a wonderful slightly citrusy sweet flavour.
Pomegranate molasses are perfect in dressings or drizzled over cold prepared watermelon. I used it this week over my stuffed courgette flower recipe. It also goes well with slightly salty cheeses, such as feta and goats’ cheese.
If you can’t find pomegranate molasses try reducing apple juice down to concentrated syrup and keep it in the fridge in a bottle to drip over salads and puddings.
Courgettes grated on the large side of the grater and mixed into natural yoghurt with fresh chopped mint and black pepper make a super dip to go with spicy food.
Grated courgette also works well in a salad, but you need other crisp, chunky vegetables – cucumber, avocado, carrots and florets of cauliflower, all with toasted seeds and a herb dressing.
Ratatouille is a favourite recipe; you can use just courgettes for it if you have a real glut. A really good tomato sauce and plenty of basil and black pepper. Courgette grated into a mint cous cous salad is a cool and refreshing option for a summer BBQ. I have a recipe for a delicious ratatouille chutney, which is amazing with cold meats and in sandwiches.
However you use your courgettes, check them every day whilst they grow – unless you want unwieldy marrows!