Courgettes seem to go in and out of fashion. One day, they’re on every recipe platform going, the next they disappear again as quietly and as subtly as they appeared. Retro courgette boats were definitely a thing once upon a time, but a few years back they were replaced by spiralised courgette “spaghetti” as a low-carb alternative to pasta. Regardless of where they land on the popularity meter, however, courgettes are always on my mind at this time of year; their versatility gives in to a light saute, a deep char or simply left to absorb whatever’s thrown at them in their truest, raw form.
Grilled courgettes with warm yoghurt and saffron butter (pictured above)
This dish is inspired by kousa b’laban, a Middle Eastern dish of stuffed baby marrow cooked in yoghurt sauce. This simplified version involves serving the warm sauce and grilled courgettes separately, with a quick saffron butter to spoon on top. If you don’t have saffron, a pinch of turmeric will do. Serve as a starter, or as a side for grilled meat or fish.
Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
30g unsalted butter
¼ tsp saffron threads, roughly crushed
4 baby marrows or 4 small courgettes, tops trimmed slightly, then halved lengthways (600g net weight)
2½ tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp cornflour
300g Greek-style yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp dried mint
¾ tsp coriander seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
1½ tbsp picked mint leaves
Heat the grill to a high setting. Put the butter and saffron in a small saucepan, melt on a medium heat, then set aside to infuse while you get on with everything else.
Put the marrow or courgettes on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, add two tablespoons of oil, a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and toss to combine. Arrange cut side up on the tray, then grill for 15-20 minutes, until nicely charred and softened.
Towards the last 10 minutes of the grilling time, make the sauce. In a large bowl, whisk the cornflour and three tablespoons of water until smooth, then add the yoghurt, garlic, dried mint, remaining half-tablespoon of oil and a half-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to combine, then transfer to a large, nonstick saute pan on a medium heat. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly and warmed through. Do not let it boil, or it will split.
Transfer the warm yoghurt sauce to a plate with a lip and top with the courgettes, arranging them grilled side up. Spoon over the saffron butter, then sprinkle with the coriander seeds and mint leaves. Squeeze over the lemon half and serve right away.
Summer courgettes with tomatoes and ricotta
This fairly simple dish tastes like an Italian summer holiday. All you need is some bread to mop it all up.
Prep 25 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4 as a starter or a side
3½ tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely sliced (use a mandoline, if you have one)
750g mixed green and yellow courgettes, quartered lengthways, then cut into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp (5g) fresh oregano
3 strips finely shaved lemon
2 tbsp (10g) basil leaves, picked
120g whole-milk ricotta
For the salsa
4 very ripe plum tomatoes, finely chopped (400g)
2 tsp oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
Mix all the ingredients for the tomato salsa with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then set aside.
Put a large, nonstick saute pan on a medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of oil and the garlic. Gently fry for three minutes, stirring often, until soft and aromatic – you don’t want the garlic to brown at all, so turn the heat down if necessary.
Add the courgettes, oregano, lemon skin, half the basil and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the courgettes are very soft but still mostly holding their shape. You don’t want them to brown, so turn down the heat if need be.
Remove and discard the oregano and lemon peel, then transfer the courgettes to a large plate with a lip. Spoon the salsa evenly over the courgettes, then top with spoonfuls of the ricotta. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon and a half of oil and season with a pinch of salt. Finish with the remaining basil and serve.
Fennel and courgette salad with preserved lemon dressing
This is the kind of raw, fresh salad you’d want on a hot summer’s day, as part of a summery spread and alongside a chilled glass of wine. You can make the dressing well in advance, but don’t mix the salad until just before serving, because it releases water as it sits.
Prep 35 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 4, as a side
2 large fennel bulbs (750g), trimmed, cut in half lengthways and finely shaved about 2mm thick (use a mandoline, if you have one)
2 courgettes (420g), trimmed and finely shaved lengthways about 2mm thick (again, use a mandoline, if you have one)
1 big handful (15g) mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 big handful (15g) dill, roughly chopped
5 tbsp (15g chives), roughly cut into 1½cm lengths
60ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly crushed in a mortar
For the preserved lemon dressing
40g preserved lemon (ie, 1-2 lemons), seeds discarded and roughly chopped (35g net weight)
½ small shallot, roughly chopped (20g)
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1½ tbsp lemon juice
2½ tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp pink peppercorns, roughly crushed in a mortar
First make the dressing. Put the preserved lemon, shallot, garlic and lemon juice in a small food processor and blitz until finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the oil and blitz for a minute or two more, until completely smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the crushed pink peppercorns.
Put the fennel, courgette, herbs, oil, two thirds of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a large bowl, and mix well to combine.
To serve, spread half the fennel and courgette mixture out on a large, round platter. Spoon over half the dressing and half the fennel seeds, top with the remaining fennel and courgette mix, then spoon over the remaining dressing and seeds, and serve at once.