All Courgettes Great and Small
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
It’s been a while since I last grew courgettes (or zucchini as our American and Italian cousins like to call them). Despite being a vegetable more associated with the warmer climes of southern Europe they appear to flourish in my Sussex garden. Once again I have under estimated just how quickly and profusely they grow and find myself with a glut. This raises the inevitable question of what to do with them and brings to mind John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick where one of his female protagonists, Suki, finds herself besieged by zucchini:
“Zucchini bread, zucchini soup, salad, frittata, zucchini stuffed with hamburger and baked, cut into slices and fried, cut into sticks to use with a dip, it was wild. I even threw a lot into a blender and told the children to put it on their bread instead of peanut butter. Monty was desperate; he said even his shit smelled of zucchini.”
As any vegetable gardener will know the other problem with courgettes is that they quickly become enormous and stray into marrow territory. The larger they grow the tougher the outer skin becomes and so they merit a slightly different approach to cooking. I have spared my family Suki’s courgette spread but have found a couple of uses for the more monstrous specimens which I hope you will enjoy.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Antonio Carluccio who suggested this method for cooking courgettes with the addition of mint rather than the dill customarily paired with this vegetable. Feta is also often used in courgette dishes but I prefer ricotta salata for this recipe. This cheese has the saltiness of feta without the acidity, which I feel can drown the delicate, creamy flavour of courgettes. If you can’t get ricotta salata then use a young pecorino.
Ingredients - Makes 12 (serves 4 as a light lunch or 6 as a starter)
Fine sea salt
50g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs
White pepper and/or cayenne for seasoning
2 spring onions, finely chopped
100g ricotta salata or young pecorino, finely grated
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
Finely grated zest of a medium lemon
Vegetable oil for frying
Coarsely grate the courgette. If you are using a larger courgette you may find it contains bigger seeds than you are used to. Personally, I don’t mind these but if you prefer not to include them deseed the courgette first. You will need 500g of grated courgette for this recipe so if you are deseeding them you will need more courgettes than stated above (800-900g should do it).
Place a handful of the grated courgette in a colander then sprinkle with a little fine sea salt. Throw in another handful and sprinkle this with salt. Keep going until all the courgette is in the colander. Put the colander on a plate and leave for 30-60 minutes. Rinse off the salt with cold water then place the grated courgette in a tea towel. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible. This removes the excess liquid and will improve the texture of the final fritters.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Break in the eggs then, using a fork, gradually combine to form a thick batter. Season with a little pepper or cayenne (I prefer the latter). Then add the courgettes. Compared to the amount of courgettes you have prepared it won’t seem like a lot but this batter is more of a binding agent rather than something to coat the vegetables.
Stir in the remaining ingredients except the oil. Coat the bottom of a large non stick frying pan and place over a medium-high heat for a minute or two. Place generously heaped tablespoons of the courgette mixture in the pan and flatten slightly (say 3-4 spoonfuls at any one time). Cook for 2-3 minutes each side then keep the fritters warm (in a low oven) whilst you cook the remaining mixture, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.
In her Vegetable Book Jane Grigson says that courgette fritters are often served with skordalia during lent in Greece. Her recipe is very similar to the Tarator Sauce I wrote about on this blog some time ago. It is an excellent accompaniment to these fritters although a regular hummus works just as well.