Zuppa di Zucchine e Parmigiano

OH NO!!! Not another courgette recipe.

I was in the orto this morning and the harvest included some ripe tomatoes, several cucumbers and another load of courgettes. So after sending friends messages on Facebook asking them to collect a cucumber and courgette when passing to save them going to waste, I decided to make something else for the freezer for the winter months.

I had given an Italian friend of mine my recipe for courgette and mint soup and she told me she often makes zuppa di zucchine e parmigiano. (courgette and parmesan soup). So I recalled the ingredients she told me she used and thought I’d have a bash at it.

The ingredients are:

1 kg courgette, 1 small onion, bunch of fresh basil, 2 litres of water, 200 ml cooking cream, 50g grated parmesan, 200 ml chicken stock, salt and pepper to season.

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Add the chicken stock to the water; I use it straight from the freezer. Vegetable stock can be used if you are a vegetarian/vegan, and bring it to the boil, Meanwhile, chop the courgette and fry it with the onion and basil until it starts to soften but not brown, then add to the pot of water and simmer until the pieces of courgette are soft.

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Once the courgette is soft remove from the heat and let it cool down. Once cool blend until the soup is smooth and transfer back into the pot.

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Add the cream and parmesan and stir as you reheat it slowly. Pour into bowls and eat straight away and enjoy. I expected it to be a much more robust flavour but it’s actually a very light soup, ideal for summer lunches.

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As this is the first time I’ve made this soup I’m guessing it’ll keep for a week in the refrigerator and if frozen last for 2-3 months.

Zucchine Sott’aceto

At this time of the year courgettes (zucchine) are in great abundance, I’ve already used some from my orto to make spiced Indian chutney and have a few cubed and stored in the freezer for use later in the year. Two of my favourite things to make with courgettes is courgette and mint soup which is delicious hot or cold and zucchine sott’aceto, which translates as courgettes under vinegar.

I was given this recipe by a lady from Naples and it’s so versatile, it can be served as a condiment, as a side vegetable, (goes really well with griddled pork) or as a part of an antipasti platter and it’s great in a cheese sandwich.

It’s so easy to make and has just three ingredients: 1 medium sized courgette, 6 garlic cloves and white wine vinegar.

First slice the courgette into thin strips, if you have a mandolin this will be easy but if not use a sharp knife and don’t worry if they are not uniform, you’ll be eating them not entering them in a beauty competition.

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Splash them with just a drizzle of olive oil, then rub the oil into the slices.

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Heat a dry griddle pan and once hot add the sliced courgettes but don’t crowd them as the water content needs to evaporate and if there’s too many in the pan they’ll steam.

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Once they’ve been charred on both sides add them to a bowl and add a pinch of coarse sea salt.

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Chop the garlic cloves and add to the bowl then cover with just enough vinegar to touch the top layer, then set aside in a refrigerator. After a couple of hours turn them over so the top layer is now in the bottom of the bowl, this means all the slices will absorb the same amount of vinegar.

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This is best made the day before you’re going to use it as it lets the flavours develop. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge, but I’ve found at parties and barbecues it tends to only last a matter of minutes before my guests have devoured it all.

Recycled Indian Relish

I hate to throw anything away and last week when I had half an onion and half a cucumber I made that English classic, of cucumber and onion steeped in vinegar. As I’m in Italy I couldn’t use malt vinegar like in the UK so I used a white wine vinegar.

I grew up with this; I remember Sunday teatime having cold beef sandwiches with the cucumber and onion mix adding a sour zingy taste. It’s lovely after a day or so languishing inside the fridge to have on a cheese or ham sandwich, or as an accompaniment to a salad.

Well today I used the last of it up at lunchtime and stood looking at the vinegar, coloured pink from the red onion and rather than throw it away I thought I’d recycle it and make an Indian relish. So as the iPod shuffled and Antony and the Johnsons played Cripple and the Starfish, I started to assemble the ingredients.

Now I’m not good at measurements, as I’ve said before I tend to be a chuck in the ingredients and have faith in the cooking gods. But I’ll try my best to give you an idea of the quantities I used to make this spicy, hot relish. 100_8879

Ingredients:

7 garlic cloves. 1 medium sized onion. 1 medium courgette. 1 aubergine. 6 small dried cayenne chillies (you can use whatever you like according to how hot you want the relish to be). 1 tablespoon of turmeric. 2 tablespoons of a curry powder mix. 1 tablespoon tomato puree. 100 ml white wine vinegar. Olive oil for frying.

First chop the onion, courgette, aubergine and garlic. Add a little oil to a deep pan and fry the onions until they start to soften but not brown. Add a little more oil to the pan and then add the aubergine and courgette and after a further 3 minutes add the garlic. Stir in the chillies and turmeric and stir the mixture giving the vegetables a coating of the yellow powder. Then add the curry powder, distribute evenly in the pan and add the vinegar.

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Bring to the boil and cook on a rapid heat for about five minutes, then turn to a rolling simmer and add the tomato puree and stir through. Continue the cooking for a further 15 minutes until it reaches a thicker consistency. The aubergine and onion should be soft but the courgette should still have a little bite to it.

Wash and sterilise 3 x 300g jars by drying in a hot oven, (be careful when taking hot jars from an oven) Make sure the jars have a coated inner lid for the storing of vinegar, plain metal lids will tarnish. and fill them while the relish and jars are still hot, screw on the lids and let them cool down before storing in the fridge. (They should pop and seal as they cool) The relish will keep for around 6 weeks in the fridge, (2 weeks once opened) and is delicious with warm flatbread like chapatti.

Getting Stuffed: Fun with a Courgette

Okay, so the title today is a bit provocative, but you should know me by now, there’s always a little bit of Carry On… lurking in the background of my psyche.

Today for lunch I was unsure what to make and as I  have spent the last few days writing about Italian food I thought I’d have a go at stuffing something. Italian’s are very good at using up almost everything in their store cupboards, Nothing seems to go to waste, a throwback to days when food was scarce and the cuisine often referred to as cucina povera (poor kitchen). I had two courgettes sitting in the fridge doing nothing so it was time to make them pay their way. So I split them in half lengthways and scooped out the flesh and after a drizzle of olive oil I popped them into a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.

As the courgettes baked I chopped the scooped out flesh and added a small chopped onion and two cloves of garlic and a pinch of chilli seeds, this mixture was softened in a little olive oil in a  frying pan then set aside to cool as I removed the courgettes from the oven.

I then took a handful of breadcrumbs: I don’t really do correct measurements, I’m a seat of the pants kind of guy and another handful of grated parmesan and mixed this with the mixture and then seasoned with black pepper and salt until mixing in a beaten egg. I then stuffed the baked courgettes and placed them in a shallow ovenproof dish with enough passata to come two-thirds of the way up the courgettes.

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I then baked them for approximately 20 minutes at 200°C and then served them up. The courgette was still firm enough to retain its shape and have some bite and the filling was crispy on the top and was a spicy compliment to the passata and the courgette. 100_8600-crop

I guess there’s many different ways of doing this; maybe for a non veggie option you could crumble in some pre-cooked sausage meat or pancetta. I for one shall be having more fun in the future stuffing things….. Oooer Matron!

Seppe and the Courgette Trumpet

Sunday evening was spent at a barbecue hosted by our friends Viv and Seppe.  As people arrived, ribs and sausages where deployed above the red coals, Seppe had glowing in advance, everyone contributed to the feast, I took a strawberry torte, a melon and grappa jelly and some coffee pannacotta, Graham took a rice dish and some chocolate and chilli cake and Gina brought an amazing artichoke bake she had made in advance; which everyone cooed over upon tasting. The evening passed by pleasantly, the children left the grown-ups and went to play in the streets: Something sadly children don’t do anymore back in England, mostly, in my opinion down to paranoia and playstation.

As the evening progressed Seppe showed everyone how to make a courgette trumpet, and before long we had put together a band: I say band in the loosest sense of the word, and it wasn’t long before adults, woozy with wine were projecting what can only be described as fart sounds into the evening air.

So I thought I’d share the method of making this innovative vegetable instrument with you:

1. Select a courgette/zuccini stem.

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2. Remove the leaf.

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3. Cut a slit into the stem about a centimetre long.

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4. Put stem into mouth and blow. I find it works better for me if the slit is vertical to my bottom lip.

The evening was rounded off by the children excitedly telling us there was a fox in the piazza, and sure enough there it was, a friendly, skinny fox begging for food, after Ben gave it a sausage it ran away, and the guests also started to depart, everyone agreeing it had been a marvellous evening of food, fun and friendship.