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Summer is fast approaching, bringing with it a bounty of fresh seasonal vegetables (and some sun, we hope). From peppers and aubergines to sweetcorn and tomatoes, the summertime harvest brings us plenty to enjoy at mealtimes.

But not all vegetables are equally loved. The humble courgette has had a bad time in the court of public opinion, criticised as tasteless, mushy, and even accused of poisonings — thanks to ‘toxic squash syndrome’. We’re here to set the record straight, and change your perception of courgettes. When grown and prepared correctly, they can be a tender and versatile addition to many delicious dinners.

On that note, here are four of our favourite courgette-based dishes for the summer months.

1.    Courgette carbonara

First up, we’re pairing your future favourite vegetable with an Italian classic. In this recipe, courgette replaces the pork typically found in carbonara, to elevate the sophisticated pasta dish with vegetarians in mind.

Leaving tradition behind isn’t always a bad thing, so long as you follow the advice of the experts. Considering the best pasta for this dish, Italian food specialists Pasta Evangelists suggest “pairing the sauce with a classic pasta shape, such as spaghetti, or the slightly more fun bucatini. Similar in shape to spaghetti, this long, hollow pasta also originates from Rome, and is deft at capturing every drop of this salty and moreish sauce.”

For this recipe, we’ll go with bucatini for that very reason.

Ingredients

4 servings

  • 400g bucatini
  • 150ml single cream
  • 100g Italian-style hard cheese, grated
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh thyme

Method

  1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add bucatini. Cook according to packet instructions.
  2. To prepare the carbonara sauce, separate the eggs for their yolks, and discard the whites. Add cream to the yolks and whisk together, adding the grated cheese little by little until combined, and keeping some left over to top the pasta with.
  3. Chop the courgette into small cubes. Heat the olive oil in a large pan until sizzling, and fry pieces until they begin to soften and brown. Season with pepper and thyme to taste.
  4. Once pasta is cooked, drain and keep aside the pasta water.
  5. Toss pasta in pan with courgette, and remove from heat.
  6. Add egg mixture and a ladleful of pasta water together and combine in the hot pan. tossing to prevent sauce from settling.
  7. Sparingly add remaining pasta water as required, until sauce is smooth and coats the pasta.
  8. Top with remaining grated cheese and serve.

2. Ratatouille tart

Now that we’ve got you loving courgettes, it’s time to bring the friends and family onboard. Ratatouille tart is a colourful crowd-pleaser that incorporates all the best summery veg, wrapped up in a buttery golden pastry.

Reworking the classic French stew, this rustic summer dish is deceptively light and perfect for entertaining during the warmer months. A slice of ratatouille tart will be just what you reach for when you’re craving something a little less meaty than what’s sat on the barbecue.

Ingredients

6 servings

Pastry

  • 300g plain flour
  • 120g unsalted butter
  • 30ml whole milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

Tart filling

  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 2 courgettes, sliced
  • 1 aubergine, sliced
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 50g goat’s cheese, to top (optional)

Method

  1. To make the pastry, beat together the milk, butter, sugar and egg yolk. Gradually add the flour and continue to beat until a dough forms, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Once refrigerated, roll the dough flat on a floured surface. The surface area of the pastry should be broad enough to cover the base and sides of your tart pan, and maintain an even thickness of around 5mm. Cut off any overhang and bake pastry at 190°C/170°C fan for 30 minutes, until set and golden brown. Cool on a rack.
  3. For the ratatouille, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and cook the onion in a large pan, until the onion starts to caramelise.
  4. Add the garlic and sliced courgettes, pepper, and aubergine to the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Stir canned tomatoes into the vegetable mix, and cook for 20-25 minutes on low heat, until vegetables are soft.
  6. Ladle ratatouille into the pastry shell, and crumble goat’s cheese over the top if desired. Serve once the mix has cooled slightly.

3. Courgette lemon drizzle cake

Courgette isn’t just for savoury dishes — it can also go in cake! The versatile veg adds moisture and nutritious value to baked goods, so is put to use much like banana is to boost cake and bread.

This fresh twist on a British classic is sure to surprise guests once they discover its secret ingredient. Decorating the sweet sponge with green, courgette is grated and laced beneath lashings of citrusy lemon icing. Just to show off, we’ve also added a hint of fragrant thyme, turning this easy bake into a soirée show-stopper.

Ingredients

10 servings

Cake

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 courgette
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp thyme leaves

Icing

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Method

  1. Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper, and preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
  2. Beat together the butter, eggs and caster sugar until creamy. Add lemon zest and thyme leaves and stir through.
  3. Coarsely grate the courgettes and stir into the mixture.
  4. Add salt, and sift in flour. Fold until combined.
  5. Pour mixture into the loaf tin, and bake for 50-60 minutes. When ready, a skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean. Leave cake to cool in the tin.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the lemon drizzle by combining the icing sugar and lemon juice into a smooth drizzle. Pierce the cooled cake all over with a skewer or fork, and pour the icing over.
  7. Allow this glaze to set, then remove cake from tin and serve.

4. Courgette fritters

These little veggie pancakes are the perfect summer side. Easy to assemble and fried up in minutes, fritters are the ones to make if you’re looking to dispel any doubts about the courgette. Rest assured, there’ll be no mushy veg here as we’re frying rather than adding water.

By grating up and melding courgette with cheese and spice, you have a great summer snack to kick off your dinner party. Best served dipped into yoghurt, chutney or a sweet chilli sauce, these light bites will keep everyone coming back for more — just be careful not to spoil your main!

Fritters can also be topped with a poached egg and chilli flakes for a spicy brunch dish, or crumbled over salad for a quick lunch, packing a hit of fried flavour.

Ingredients

4 servings

  • 50g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 courgettes, grated
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp paprika

Method

  1. Sift flour into a bowl and combine with the grated courgette and cheese.
  2. Stir through the beaten egg, and season with salt and paprika.
  3. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat, and let bubble. Put a tablespoon of fritter mixture into the pan and flatten with a spoon into a round patty. Fry each side for a few minutes until golden, then remove to serve. Repeat this step with the rest of the mixture.

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