29 August, 2009

August recipe: Courgette tian

A friend gave us this recipe with the recommendation, “It uses loads of courgettes!”. Anyone who has ever grown courgettes will recognise the sentiment. Given some warm weather and a bit of sunshine, two or three healthy plants can produce more courgettes than you would think possible. Even if you don’t grow your own, if you wander down country lanes in many parts of rural England you’re very likely to come across impromptu roadside stalls where people sell their surplus garden produce on the honesty box system, and in August they will most likely feature sparkling fresh courgettes at absurdly low prices.

This is a very good way to use them. We grow yellow courgettes, but it works just as well with the green variety.

Courgette* tian

1.25 lb (approx 550 g) courgettes
2 oz (approx 50 g) spinach or chard
Half an onion, or two or three shallots
1 Tablespoon (approx 15 ml) olive oil
1 clove garlic
1-2 oz (approx 25-50 g) smoked bacon
2 oz (approx 50 g) long-grain rice
1 oz (approx 25 g) Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
Fresh basil and/or parsley, lots of (probably about 2 tablespoons or so when chopped)

Cut the ends off the courgettes and boil whole (or halved if they won’t fit in the pan whole) in salted water until soft. This usually takes about 15 minutes. Drain, then mash the courgettes with a potato masher. Beware the jets of hot water they try to spit up your arm. Put the mashed courgette in a sieve and leave to drain for a few minutes.

Cook the rice in boiling salted water until tender. How long this takes depends on the rice (follow the instructions on the packet). Brown rice usually takes about 30 minutes, white rice around 15 minutes.

Peel and chop the onion or shallots. Peel and crush the garlic. Chop the bacon. Fry the onion, bacon and garlic in the olive oil over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until starting to brown. Remove from the heat.

Shred the spinach or chard leaves. Grate the cheese.

Mix the mashed and drained courgette, the shredded spinach, the cooked rice and the grated cheese into the bacon, onions and garlic. Stir in the chopped basil and/or parsley and the beaten egg. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Grease a shallow ovenproof dish. I use a round heatproof glass baking dish about 8” (approx 20 cm) in diameter. Press the mixture evenly into the dish and level the surface.

Bake at approx 170 C for approx 35 minutes until set and starting to go golden-brown on top.

Serve hot with a green vegetable or salad of your choice. This quantity serves 2. You can double it up and use a bigger dish to feed more people. I have no idea if it keeps, because there are never any leftovers. I don’t think it would freeze, but I’ve never tried it.

*I believe the American for courgette is zucchini


Constance Brewer said...

I make a very similar recipe, without the rice. It's very good with the cheese - more cheese, lots of cheese. We like cheese. :)
One season, in a fit of stupidity, I planted 6 plants. Yeah. We couldn't give them away fast enough. We were leaving them on people's doorsteps. I let one grow to monster size, and we used it as a Halloween Zucchini Lantern...

Gabriele Campbell said...

Sounds nice if I can find a way to replace the rice. Wonder if couscous would work.

Carla said...

Constance - By all means increase the cheese! I haven't tried that but I don't see why it wouldn't work - this looks to me like the sort of recipe that's amenable to modification.
6 plants would probably feed the whole neighbourhood :-) I occasionally find one that's been hiding under the leaves and managed to grow to a size that resembles a beached Zeppelin, but never done it deliberately.
How did you make it into a lantern, by the way? Stood on end to make a really tall thin lantern, or what?

Gabriele - see Constance's comment, which seems to have solved your problem! I've never tried couscous, but you could always experiment and see what happens.

Steven Till said...

I've never even had courgettes. Not very common, I suppose, here in the southern United States. It looks good though.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Lol, I begin to wonder if I could grow a plant in a pot on my balcony? What sort of earth do they prefer and how much water do they need?

I've had some success with tomatoes.

Constance Brewer said...

We carved it like a sideways face, lying down. It was a bit bizarre. Hard to put a candle in too!

Carla said...

Steven - not even as zucchini?

Gabriele - if you treat them like tomatoes that should be a good start. They like fertile soil and a big pot, and they like warmth and sunshine. We feed ours with tomato fertiliser along with the tomatoes. They get watered once a day, twice a day in very hot weather. You start the seedlings off indoors, then plant them out when the danger of frost is past (they aren't hardy and frost will kill them).

Constance - bizarre indeed, but you should have won some sort of prize for originality :-)

Steven Till said...

Ah, yes of course, zucchini. Didn't realize they were the same thing. I don't spend much time in the kitchen. Still, I don't eat a lot of it.

Carla said...

Steven - two nations divided by a common language :-)

Gabriele - further to my reply above, I have been reminded that courgette plants tend to cover a bigger area than tomatoes. Our courgette plants each spread to about 1m square, so they may occupy more of your balcony than tomatoes (tomatoes can be persuaded to grow in a neat row; courgette plants sprawl). Though there might be some smaller varieties around that have been selected for growing in pots.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Lol, the Sprawling Zucchini Monster. I might check for balcony variants then, because I really like to sit on the balcony myself, too. ;)