The time of year has arrived when we have the welcome ‘problem’ of how to use all the courgettes. Our own plants are producing plenty and our wonderful hosts where we stayed while we were in the Minervois gave us several from their garden to bring home as well. I like them simply sliced and fried in olive oil, but sometimes it’s good to have a change and this simple dish of roasted courgettes with feta cheese and olives provided that.
I cut two medium-sized courgettes into chunks about 1 cm square and put them in a roasting tray with a couple of cloves of garlic, roughy chopped, some salt and some olive oil. After about 30 minutes in the oven at 200 C the pieces were beginning to brown and I added 100 grams of feta chopped into small pieces and some stoned green olives for the last 10 or 15 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, Lo Jardinièr cooked some rice and made a delicious concentrated tomato and caper sauce to serve with them.
This made a very good supper, followed by some sliced windfall peaches given to us by friends in the village over which I’d poured some viognier white wine from the domaine des Pascales.
And the squid? Well, that was another meal – a real treat fror me when Lo Jardinièr makes this dish as it’s one of my favourites. A trip into Pézenas meant we had an opportunity to buy two nice squid from one of the excellent fishmongers in the centre of the town.
Lo Jardinièr cleaned, skinned and removed the insides from the squid. The fishmonger offered to do this for him so you may not have to do this. He then cut the two squid (which weighed about 500 grams together) into rings. He beat together 2 tablespoons of flour, a pinch of salt and a cup of water, beat an egg white until frothy but not stiff and then folded the batter into the egg white. He dipped the squid pieces into the batter and fried them in olive oil for no more than a couple of minutes. They’re best served very simply with wedges of lemon, a green salad and a glass of white or rosé wine.
There weren’t any more courgettes ready to eat yet in the garden today so I picked some of the flowers instead, making sure that there were some male ones left to fertilise any female ones that may open over the next day or so. Sometimes we simply cut the flowers in half lengthwise, coat them in batter made from half chick pea flour and half ordinary baking flower, mixed with a little water. Today I decided to stuff them and serve them with a salad made from our first green pepper of the season and a cucumber, also from the garden.
I mixed some chopped mint, salt and pepper into a large tablespoonful of fresh breadcrumbs, added some olive oil to make the stuffing stick together and put it into the flowers. It doesn’t matter if they don’t look very tidy as the batter will cover any gaps.
Then Lo Jardinièr made the batter, coated them and fried them in olive oil while I arranged the salads.
They made a tasty first course at lunchtime, with a little local Picholine olive oil poured over the cucumber and pepper.
Cucumber and courgette seedlings on the kitchen windowsill. When they’re a bit bigger we’ll plant them out in the garden.
L’amuse bouche is a little extra dish given at the start of the meal to eat while you’re waiting for the first course to arrive and to awake the taste buds. This is the one I had last night at an excellent restaurant, La Littorine, in Banyuls-sur-mer. It had a base of courgette, a layer of sea food mousse and a prawn on a cocktail stick.
And this post is an amuse bouche for a fuller description that will follow in a few days. I’ve had a busy week, going to Toulouse at the weekend for a huge Occitan demonstration and then travelling south to French Catalunya to celebrate my sixtieth birthday with my family in one of my favourite hotels (and restaurants). Family are still here for the next couple of days so I’ll catch up at the weekend.
I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw these flowers on our courgette plants this morning. This is the first year we’ve managed to keep the plants alive beyond the beginning of August because usually here they die as soon as the weather gets too hot and dry for them towards the end of July. This year we didn’t have many courgettes but the plants did survive the summer to produce during the autumn. We didn’t expect flowers just three days before the shortest day, though! I picked them all, including the female one with a tiny courgette, because they won’t grow at this time of year and they are so delicious stuffed.
From the garden
to the kitchen….
to the table….
I stuffed them with grated cheese and chopped oregano (not easy since they were so small) and Lo Jardinièr dipped them in batter he’d made with chickpea flour, olive oil and water, and then fried them. They made a nice amuse bouche for lunch. The main course was easy: before we went to the garden to do a morning’s work I put two duck legs on a layer of sliced onion, pumpkin, garlic and juniper berries with a glass of white wine in an earthenware dish in the oven. When we got home they were ready to eat after about 3 hours of slow cooking, covered for the first 2 1/2 hours, then uncovered for the last half hour to crisp the skin.
We uprooted the remains of the tomato plants before we went away and they’re waiting now to be burnt. There are still a few aubergines and peppers on the plants, but otherwise this is the last of summer for this year:
We’ll make fritters with some of these aubergines and courgettes this evening to eat with mussels.
These mixed peppers, the last of several varieties, will be good in sauces or pickled to store for the winter.
These are the last tiny Kandil dolma peppers – I think I’ll stuff them with a mixture of breadcrumbs, feta cheese and sweet onion.
Coming home hungry at midday, Lo Jardinièr and I managed to make lunch in only about 10 minutes: a courgette fresh from the garden, sliced and fried in olive oil; some slices of langanisse, a long spicy dried sausage; cherry tomatoes, also from the garden; huevos revueltos, a Spanish version of scrambled egg, this time with onions and peppers sliced and sautéed in olive oil before adding the beaten eggs and some chopped chorizo added to the mix as well.
A quick lunch
Some of the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, and a courgette, that we found in the garden this morning, and a few more peppers:
These are mostly Kandil dolma peppers that I’ve now stuffed with rice, onion, garlic, mint, cinnamon and paprika and cooked in diluted tomato purée until the rice was cooked. We’ll eat them cold with a squeeze of lemon over the next few days.
The tomatoes, courgette and a couple of the aubergines became the main delights in our supper tonight, with some Manchego cheese and some jamón de Serrano we bought at the border yesterday.
Pepper, courgette and tomato slices to dip into garlic mayonnaise.
We’d spent most of the morning making ratatouille and stuffed peppers for the freezer and then treated ourselves to an hour out in the sun taking photos, so we didn’t feel like making anything too complicated for lunch. One of our Spanish gardening neighbours had passed on an idea for a very simple courgette salad: finely slice the courgette, using a mandolin, a sharp knife or the slicing blades of a grater, add some chopped garlic if you like it (we do) and a dressing made from red wine vinegar (home made by a friend) mixed with a little honey then whisked with olive oil, salt and pepper. I left the salad to marinade in the fridge for a few hours before serving to deepen the flavours. I found that a piece of crusty bread was essential to mop up the dressing.
Socca, like pan bagnat, is a speciality from Nice and it’s also eaten on the other side of the Italian border in Liguria and Tuscany. It’s a pancake made with chickpea flour and can be baked in the oven, although we use a frying pan just as we would for pancakes. To make the batter for 2 plate-sized soccas: add a tablespoonful of olive oil, salt and pepper to 5 tablespoonfuls of chickpea flour and then mix in enough water to make a fairly thick batter. Cook it in olive oil, turning once. It can be eaten on its own, but we often use it as an alternative to bread, piling vegetables and/or fish (anchovies are good this way) onto it rather like a pizza. Today we put a good spoonful of the ratatouille we’d made on each one and added some chopped green olives (black would have been more authentic perhaps but we didn’t have any) and garlic. And we had some delicious fresh goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland to accompany it – a simple and very tasty lunch.