One of our most versatile vegetables comes into season this month: the courgette. Stuffed, steamed or fried, courgettes are tasty, filling and cheap.
Perhaps the easiest and best known use for courgettes is to prepare a simple ratatouille – fry onions and garlic until soft, then add diced or sliced courgettes, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some mixed herbs, and simmer for 10 minutes. Perfect with pasta and Parmesan.
Courgettes are also delicious roasted. Slice them thickly, toss in olive oil and bake in a hot oven for half an hour – great as a topping for pizza or a filling for quiche. For a speedy supper snack, mix two tablespoons of plain flour with a tablespoon of grated parmesan and a twist of black pepper. Slice courgettes lengthwise and coat in the floury mixture, then fry in hot olive oil for a few minutes on each side until crispy. Delicious served with tzatziki and pitta bread.
Stuffed courgettes are easy to make – halve them lengthwise and blanch in boiling water for about five minutes, then scoop out the flesh, chop it, and fry it with onion and garlic. Add breadcrumbs, chopped cashew nuts, herbs and a beaten egg to bind it all together, and pile the stuffing into the courgette shells. Top with grated cheese, and bake for 25 minutes at 200°C.
Courgettes are good raw too, and make a super salad. Using a potato peeler, slice the courgettes lengthwise to create thin ribbons. Toss in a dressing made from a tablespoon of olive oil mixed with a teaspoon of honey and the juice and grated rind of a lemon.
French beans also make a great salad – and locally grown beans should be available this month. Blanch in boiling water for about five minutes, drain, cool and serve with some chopped spring onions and a garlic dressing. Or stir black olive tapenade through cold, blanched beans then top with anchovies and sliced hard-boiled egg for a Niçoise-style salad.
French beans are ideal for stir-fries – use sesame oil and add finely chopped garlic, root ginger and chilli for a spicy side dish. Or for a Thai-style curry fry chunks of chicken breast and spring onions in olive oil, add Thai red curry paste, French beans, red pepper and coconut milk and simmer for 30 minutes.