What to eat in
Courgettes, French beans and ripe, red cherries are just a few of the delights available this month
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.
Cherries and almonds are a winning combination, as in this classic French dessert.
300g cherries, halved and stoned
1 tablespoon soft light brown sugar
70g plain flour
50g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
300 ml milk
150ml double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
15g flaked almonds
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180
Mix the flour, salt and caster sugar together, then stir in the eggs a little at a time to produce a smooth, thick batter. Put the milk and cream into a saucepan and heat gently – do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and whisk into the egg and flour batter, then stir in the vanilla essence.
Pour the batter over the cherries and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for around 30 minutes, until the clafoutis has risen and turned golden-brown. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve warm.
For dessert, nothing can beat a bowl of British cherries. Cherries and chocolate go hand in hand – try baking into chocolate brownies or simply serve with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Cherries are a key ingredient in a Black Forest gateau – layer chocolate sponge cake with fresh, stoned cherries, black cherry jam and whipped double cream to create this retro classic.
Cherries are good in hot puddings too – pop them in a pie or add to a muffin mix. You can make an easy cherry crumble by rubbing together 60g butter and 120g flour, then stirring in 60g granulated sugar. Spread halved and stoned cherries in the base of an ovenproof dish, cover with the crumble and top with flaked almonds. Bake for half an hour at 180°C.
Little Green Space July 2016