Q. So when is a courgette not a courgette? A. When it grows up and becomes a marrow…
This being my first year to grow courgettes, I have watched with great interest the transition from imposing yellow flowers to fledgling courgettes to vegetables of serious marrow proportions (which is exactly what happens when you leave the plants unchaperoned for a few days at the height of a wet summer – now that’ll teach me..). Not that you should necessarily write off overgrown courgettes of course. The unchecked expansion which results in the achievement of marrow status doesn’t do the flavour any favours, but they might win you a prize if that’s your thing…
The few marrowesque courgettes I produced weren’t prize winners by any means and, happily, were still worthy of being transformed into courgette & onion pickle. Besides, I should mention that I have form when it comes to oversized courgettes. One summer during my college years I was given a beastie which was well on its way to marrow-hood and, poor student that I was, I think I dined on it for about 2 weeks. I did at least discover that frying slices of said mega-courgette in olive oil with fresh rosemary leaves and a splash of lemon juice was a rather good way of dealing with the situation. I still like to cook courgettes that way, though this summer, when I felt like a bit of a kitchen production coming on, my mini-marrows got used in this variation of a wonderful Denis Cotter recipe:
Gratin with Courgette, Puy Lentils and Tomatoes
I actually happened upon this while looking for things to do with the rather handsome rhubarb chard that had managed to survive the seasonal slug onslaught. The original recipe (which can be found here) called for a kilo of chard, which was beyond my humble yield. I did, on the other hand, have rather a lot of courgette…. not to mention onions, which also snuck in.
- 600g courgette
- 250g swiss or rhubarb chard
- 400g fresh tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
The Other Gratin Innards:
- 100g puy lentils
- 150ml white wine
- Sprig of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 55g hard cheese (parmesan, pecorino, …)
- 55g fresh breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Slice the tomatoes thickly, place in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 15 minutes.
- Cook the puy lentils in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until tender but with a little bit of bite, then cool under cold running water and drain.
- Separate the chard stalks and leaves. Cook the leaves in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then rinse in cold water, drain and chop. Season and mix with the cooked lentils.
- Slice the courgette into about .5cm rounds. Slice the chard stalks into pieces about 1cm thick.
- Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the finely chopped garlic, thyme, chard stalks and courgette. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the wine, cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the veg are soft. Season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, slice the onion and add to an ovenproof dish (measuring about 20x24cm) along with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Put into the oven for about 10 minutes, so that the onions are not brown and cripsy and still have some bite.
- Remove the dish from the oven and add the roasted tomatoes, then the lentil mixture, followed by the courgette mixture. Scatter with the grated cheese and breadcrumbs and return to the oven for about 10 minutes.