Courgette and Cheese Tart with Beetroot and Bulgur Wheat Salad

I’ve always struggled to build the right kind of relationship with courgettes. They are so easy to grow provided you have sufficient space. However some late summer they produce so many that it becomes a struggle knowing quite what to do with them all. On a good day I can pick 6 to 8 of them, only to find another crop just a few days later.

We recently had our first frost as winter starts to show its face and with that the courgette plants wither and start the process of becoming next year’s compost. Funny thing is, I miss them. I miss being able to pick my own and I refuse to buy them from the supermarket out of season. However if you are more relaxed about your courgette relationship you could try this tart

This is like a quiche but made with puff pastry rather than shortcrust. Despite blind baking to restrict the amount of rise in the pastry, it still takes on a life of its own. Very different to a traditional quiche or tart.

I served it with a salad made from raw beets, carrots and bulgur wheat.

To make the tart
1 onion – finely sliced
2 medium courgettes – sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 eggs
A splash of cream (optional)
1 pack of puff pastry – I use ready rolled for ease
150g crumbly cheese – Lancashire, Feta, Wensleydale all work well
salt and pepper

Put the oven onto 200C. Line a loose bottomed, metal tart tin with the pastry. This usually requires using two pieces of pastry so make sure there are no cracks in the join else the filling will leak through. Keep the off cuts for now. Pop a sheet of baking parchment over the base, fill with baking beans (or use dried beans or chick peas) to weigh it down, then bake for around 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the parchment. Let the beans cool and store them for reuse.

Meanwhile you can make the filling. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgette slices over a high heat. You want a little colour to develop as this adds some flavour to the otherwise bland courgettes. When browned and a little charred on both sides, remove and allow to cool. Turn the heat down and fry the onion gently until browned and starting to caramelise. Add these to the courgettes and allow to cool.

Beat 6 eggs with the cream if using, season to taste then add the cooled courgettes and onions along the the crumbled cheese. Pour into your par-baked pastry case. If you like you can use the off cuts of pastry to make a lattice top as per the photo. Brush with a little milk then place in the oven for 35-45 minutes until browned and the egg filling has set. Remove from the oven and from the tin and serve with the salad.

For the salad
1 medium beetroot
1 medium carrot
100g bulgur wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
A very large handful of Parsley
salt

Boil a kettle. Pop the wheat in a bowl. Just cover with boiling water and leave until all the water has been absorbed.

Take a large mixing bowl and grate the beetroot and carrot. Roughly chop the parsley and add this then add the other ingredients including the cooked bulgur wheat. Mix well and season to taste

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Spiralised Butternut Squash with Courgette Polpette in a Rich Tomato Sauce

At this time of year the harvest from the allotment is at its finest. I can pick courgettes every day and still they keep coming. 2016 has been a bumper year for tomatoes and I have found the best way to store them is to roast them, blitz with a hand blender then pour the hot, rich, sweet, deep red sauce into sterile jars and seal.

This is a variation on my original courgette ball recipe which you can find jere, this time using butternut squash in place of spaghetti and a jar of roasted cherry tomato sauce.

To serve 4

Make the courgette polpette as per the recipe here. For a gluten free version substitute gram flour for the flour.

Put to one side.

Take 2 butternut squashes, peel, cut into large sections, deseed then run through a spiraliser. You may find your spiraliser struggles to get through. Mne scored the veg and I had to carefully tease the strands from one another.

Next make the tomato sauce. Heat a pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic, fry for a few seconds until softened then add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, a large jar of passata or, if using fresh, roast the tomatoes for 1 hour at 200C, blend then add to the garlic and oil. Simmer gently to thicken.

Place a large, deep frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the butternut. Stir gently and fry for around 7-8 minutes until starting to soften. Add the courgette polpette then the sauce. Stir gently over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until everything is hot.

Serve with a sprinkling of vegetarian Parmesan style cheese.

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Pea, Mint and Courgette Soup

For those who grow your own vegetables you are no doubt all too familiar with the late summer glut of courgettes. Here is yet another way of using some of them up. Works well with the larger ones you forget to pick too as you can just simmer off some of the excess water they contain. If the skin is a little tough then peel it off with a potato peeler.

Makes enough for 4 people

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion – chopped
1 clove garlic – chopped
2 medium courgettes – cut roughly into chunks
3 cups of peas – fresh or frozen
1 green chili – optional
A large handful of mint – roughly chopped
vegetable stock – just enough to cover the vegetables
salt and black pepper to taste
Spring onions – sliced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently over a medium heat until translucent.Now add the garlic and fry for 1 minute before adding the courgettes. Continue over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. You want the courgettes to be softened and starting to brown just a little. Too brown and your soup will lose the green appeal.

If you lie a little heat, cut a slit lengthwise into the chili and add that. Then add the peas and enough stock to just come up to the height of the vegetables. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until everything is soft. Add the mint and stir until wilted.

Remove the soup from the heat and blend with a stick blender or transfer to a food processor. Blitz until smooth then return to the pan if required to heat through. Season to taste and serve with breads and the sliced spring onion.

For a non vegan version you could server with a little crumbled feta or a splash of cream.

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Gluten Free Pizza

Not just gluten free, but also ultra low in carbs. Inspired by a recent cauliflower cheese tart where I used a cauliflower crust, I thought I’d try to use some of the glut of courgettes we get at this time of year on our allotment in another unusual way.

The topping is a standard pizza topping and you can use pretty much whatever you like. The crust uses grated courgettes with a few additions to help it bind.

For the base
2 medium courgettes – grated
1 egg
100g cheddar cheese – grated
1-2 tablespoons polenta

For the topping
4-5 ripe tomatoes
Glug of olive oil
1 clove garlic
Fresh basil leaves
1 ball of mozarella
Mushrooms

Place the grated courgettes into a clean tea towel and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Give it a few goes as you’ll be surprised just how much water they hold.

Empty into a bowl, add the grated cheese, egg and polenta and stir well.

Oil a baking tray or pizza stone then spread the mixture out of the tray as thinky as possible. I used a fork to press it down firmly.

Heat your oven to its maximum temperature – usually between 250C and 280C. Place the tray in the oven for around 15 minutes until the base is dryish and starting to brown at the edges.

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While the base is cooking, make your sauce and prepare your other ingredients.

I finely chopped the tomatoes then placed in a pan with some olive oil and garlic. Add a touch of salt and sugar then simmer until thickened slightly.

Slice your mushrooms.

Take the base from the oven, spread the tomato sauce over, then dot with basil leaves. Cover each leaf with a torn chunk of mozarella – this will stop the basil from burning. Dot the rest of the cheese over then spread out your sliced mushrooms. Touch of black pepper, drizzle of olive oil then back in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and it looks like a real pizza.

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Mediterranean Vegetables and Pasta

During a holiday a couple of years ago in Kefalonia, this became a firm family favourite. Delicious vegetables, fresh from the local market, prepared in olive oil with pasta and cheese. What’s not to love?

The vegetables are prepared a bit like a ratatouille and can be cooked in advance. A great dish to get you in the mood for summer now that spring is well and truly on it’s way.

Serves 4
1 onion – diced
1 clove garlic – crushed or finely chopped
1 courgette – diced
1 small red pepper – diced
1 aubergine – diced
1 red chilli – chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
250g passata
2-3 tomatoes – diced
200g mozarella
150g strong cheese – mature cheddar or gruyere
250g pasta – I used Farfalle but any shape will do
Basil leaves

Heat the oil in a large frying pan then add the onions and garlic. Cook gently for around 5 minutes then add the rest of the vegetables except the tomatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until everything starts to get tender; around 15 minutes or so. Now add the fresh tomotoes and cook until they break down, then add the passata. Season with salt and pepper, then shred a few basil leaves and add them. Cook down until the sauce is nice and thick and the tomatoes have disintegrated.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. You want the pasta to be quite firm as it will continue to cook once added to the sauce. Drain then mix in with the vegetable sauce.

Transfer to an oven dish, top with the cheeses and a drizzle of olive oil then bake in the oven at 200C until the sauce bubbles and cheese starts to brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with more shredded basil leaves and serve with a green salad, a fennel and white cabbage salad or a beetroot slaw.

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Fried Courgettes with Tomato and Fennel Seed Sauce

I wasn’t sure how this would work out but being an Ottolenghi-based dish from Waitrose Kitchen magazine I knew it would probably be a safe bet.

Delicious!!!

The original recipe uses marrow which I find tends to be a little too watery and the skin can sometimes be very tough. I used large courgettes which are more reasdily available and have a little more taste and texture.

2 large courgettes – about 800g
5 cloves garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
400g finely chopped fresh tomatoes
pinch caster sugar
1 tablespoon tomato puree
a few basil leaves

Cut the courgettes into 1.5cm thick slices. Crush 2 cloves of garlic in a large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt and black pepper. Add the courgettes slices, mix well and leave for at least 30 minutes.

Put the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Thinly slice the remainder of the garlic and add to the pan followeed by the fennel seeds. After about 2 minutes add the tomatoes, sugar and a little salt. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until thickened then remove from the heat and give it a quick blitx with a stick blender. The sauce doesn’t have to be completely smooth, but if you prefer it that way then keep on blitzing…

You can cook the courgettes in a frying pan or griddle or I find it easiest in a pannini grill. Heat the pan, griddle or grill and fry/griddle the marinaded courgette slices in batches until slightly charred on both sides. Spread the cooked courgette slices out in an oven proof dish then pour over the tomato sauce.

You can serve this at room temperature. I prefer it hot which also improves the texture of the courgettes, in which case place in the oven at 180oC for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle chopped, torn of slices basil leaves over the top before serving. Works well with roasted new potatoes, steamed rice or flat breads

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Green Vegetable Soup with Pearl Barley

You may have noticed I’ve got a bit of a thing about soup at the moment. So simple and healthy and can be made from almost anything. This one came about one Saturday morning when I scoured the vegetable tray at the bottom of the fridge looking for something to feed five hungry people. Surprisingly good, so good in fact that my son ate three bowls of it. I served it with a warm homemade foccaccia.

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks – sliced in half lengthwise then finely sliced
1 courgette – cut into quarters lengthwise then into chunks
Handful of broccoli – I used tenderstem but the normal stuff works just as well – cut into chunks
3 handfuls of pearl barley
1 x 400g tin butterbeans – drained and rinsed
2 handfuls of frozen peas – about a small mugful
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
vegetable stock – enough to cover the vegetables – more if you like your soup more of a broth
1 teaspoon marmite or other yeast extract
salt and pepper
1 red chili – sliced (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan then gently fry the leeks until soft. Add the courgettes and thyme and continue to fry and stir gently for 3-4 minutes. Now add all the other ingredients except the chili, bring the stock to the boil and simmer until the barley is cooked. If using, add the sliced chili and heat through.

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