In the time of harvest bounty my mind naturally turns to stuffing things! I have no idea why, there are so many massive vegetables everywhere that it seems like the logical thing to do, they look so cool served whole and are far, far more interesting when stuffed with something uber delicious like fresh sweetcorn, toasted walnuts and some nutty red rice.
Most cultures love a good stuffing, I read recently that in the Middle East they actually have machines to carve holes in carrots etc, you can buy pre-hollowed vegetables at the market in bags. Now that’s spoiling all the fun (or is it?!) I am not very good with DIY, the thought of getting the Black and Decker out to carve a carrot sets alarm bells ringing. Do I love stuffed veg that much?
Everything is going a very courgette at the moment! They are everywhere and this is a fine way to use up the wonder glut of this delicate fruit. This particular beast is of the golden/ yellow variety and was over a foot long. (This post was written a month ago when courgettes were really hanging out there, now they have finished their shenanigans for another year. Mores the pity. Bring on the roots!)
In fact, the best thing that can happened to a courgette is a good stuffing. Its not every vegetable you can say that about, but a courgette is at it finest full of filling other than its own, it has to be said, watery, slightly mushy interior. Especially when they’re massive like this. Resembling a marrow really. Here we have upgraded the mush with red camarague rice, walnuts, sweetcorn and many other forms of ultra deliciousness. A stuffing to be proud of!
I also like to cut courgettes thin length ways and salt them for a while, then use them as a base for an endless number of bakes and gratins. You can pack alot of courgettes into one of these dishes and the dense nature of a well baked gratin is a wonderful way to serve this normally gentle and light veg. Having said that, simply fried with garlic and olive oil, there’s another real winner.
Courgettes are allegedly easy to cultivate, but we don’t get the heat up here on the hill. We also get wind, which tends to knock them down or drag our mini green house away. We get extreme weather on tiger hill! We get our courgettes from Trigonos, a small organic farm and retreat centre just over the hill in the next valley, Nantlle. I am very lucky to work there at the moment and play with all the produce from the fertile land near the lake. See here, its a magic place,
Jane is going away a lot recently (attending many interesting workshops) and we are making the very most of our short times together. Today has been a rare early autumnal day, fresh this morning, warm in the day and a beautiful sunset, the perfect day for al fresco dining with some bubbles and twilight all around.
We sat on our bench near the stone circle and wolfed these delicious courgette treats with lashings of Russian chard and beetroot leaves. It is that wonderful time of year when every veggie seems to be coming out to play (on the plate) and we are inundated with beautiful produce. The only problem is, what to do with it all? Our veg basket is brimming over and the freezer is filling nicely, anybody fancy coming over for dinner? We feel like gluttons, but are still smiling.
One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is berry picking. How cool is that! All these free berries sprouting from hedgerows and footpaths. Leave the berries near railways alone, they use a weed killer-type train to kill all the plants around the railways meaning these berries will be contaminated. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (again!)
The elderberries on our hill are nearly ready and we fancy making some wine this time around, I have a recipe up my sleeve. The thought of homemade elderberry wine makes us both whoop, and we haven’t even drank any yet!
If you can’t get your hands on giant courgettes, normal size ones are fine, but a little more fiddly. They will also cook quicker, take 5-10 minutes off the final roasting time.
This recipe will make a little too much stuffing, but its great cold as a salad or maybe find another vegetable to stuff. Tomato? How about an apple? Serve with a simple, creamy sauce.
The Bits – For 4
1 giant courgette (yellow, green…… or 3 smaller ones)
1 1/2 cup cooked camarague rice (or rice of your choice)
1 handful chopped and toasted walnuts
1/2 handful of sunflower seeds (roasted is best)
1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 medium potato (all three finely diced)
1 corn on the cob (kernels off the cob)
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
8 cherry tomatoes (quatered, or one normal sized tomato)
3 tbs tomato puree
1 teas dried dill
1/2 teas dried mint
1/2 teas dried thyme
1 teas all spice
1/2 cup veg stock
1/2 cup raisins (chopped)
Cook your rice (as you like or follow packet instructions)
Preheat oven 200oC
Warm a griddle pan (not necessary, but looks pretty).
Start by chopping your courgette into interesting shapes with flat bottoms, so they sit up on the roasting tray, like hats. We have gone for bishops, maybe you’d like a crown, or just a flat top?
Rub them with oil, use your hands and pop them on a griddle pan, presentation side first. Leave to char up for around 5 minutes. Be sure not to move them and you’ll get nicely defined scorch marks. Then into the oven for a 10 minute pre-roast.
Why this is going on, get your prep ready for the filling.
In a large frying pan, warm 1 tbs olive oil on med/ high heat and add the onion, saute for five minutes until going golden, then add your corn and carrot, stir and heat for three minutes then add your potatoes and garlic, saute for a further three minutes then add your herbs and spices. Stir well, so not allow any bottom sticking. Add tomatoes and stock. Add 1 tbs of water if the heat is too high and things are getting stuck to the bottom.
Now add your seeds, nuts and cooked rice. Bring to a boil, add a glug of good olive oil, give it a final stir and pop a lid on it. Turn heat off and leave to settle for ten minutes.
Your courgettes should now be ready. Grab them out of the oven and set aside for a moment to cool just a little.
Get a reasonable spoon (dessert) and begin to spoon your hot mixture into to courgettes, packing it down as you go, filling every possible space with tasty filling.
Now pop them back into the oven for a fifteen minute blast and after that the courgette should be softened and the filling piping hot and ready to devour.
We sprinkled ours with chopped toasted walnuts, a few twists of black pepper, some wilted chard, beetroot leaves and good olive oil.
We would also recommend a nice tangy tomato based sauce or chutney, a creamy sauce is also lovely. These densely packed courgettes are meals in themselves and need little else on the plate to satisfy.
We Love It!
A real decadent dinner treat here, fit for special occasions and Tuesday nights after work. It does take little preparation but the combinations of textures and flavours are worth the modest toil. Get golden courgettes if you can, if they aren’t in the shops, hit your local veg farm and flutter your eyelids a little (always works for me).
Technically courgettes are an immature fruit (which sounds a lot like a good friend of ours) and can grow to over a metre long.
Golden/ Yellow courgettes are not only very cool to look at they are also have a higher carotene content than your average green courgettes, they are also good for vitamin C and A with plenty of potassium to boot.
Brit disclaimer – What we repeatedly refer to as a courgette in this post may be known to some of you as a zucchini. We at the Beach House Kitchen mean no offense in the flagrant use of our British-ness and actually prefer the name Zucchini, it sounds like fun and has a ‘Z’ in it, which is always very cool in our world. Maybe we can all just call them Zuch-ettes and bridge our islands vocab gap. Just to add greater confusion to the mix in South Africa they call these beauts ‘baby marrow’.
Lee, master chef from the land of the green grass(apart from Ireland) .Thank you so so much! I love your food! Autumn cooking is more than delicious-its a feast !