Right now I am enjoying the full flush of summer harvests in my garden. My six zucchini plants are producing so profusely it’s hard to keep up with all the zucchini (or courgettes, as the French prefer to call them). I’m loving frying the tiny baby vegetables and their gorgeous flowers in a crisp, delicate batter. While my original fried zucchini flowers recipe included lemon zest and herbs in the light batter, I've been enjoying playing around with different flavour combinations.
One of the variations I have had great success with this week has been the addition of Indian spices into the batter – just a teaspoonful each of cumin seeds, mustard seeds and good-quality curry powder. It’s sensational. I don’t like the batter to be too heavy and so I run the coated flowers through my fingers to leave just a thin coating before I fry them. I have also tried cooking them ahead of time and reheating and they seem to keep nice and crisp as long as I put them in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towels. Serve with a wedge of lemon for a great first course.
I first enjoyed this light, satisfying zucchini soup at a lunch cooked by Australian chef Neil Perry. I have adapted his recipe slightly and omitted any cream as I find the soup pleasingly rounded and unctuous without it. Choose best-quality parmesan cheese and grate it from the block. I always like to make extra soup to have in the fridge for an easy home-alone lunch or a light supper. This soup keeps in the fridge for a couple of days but don’t freeze it as it will lose its pretty, fresh green colour.
Tuscan Zucchini Soup
Prep time: 10 mins Cook time: 20 mins
1kg small green zucchini
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30-40 basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
50g parmesan, finely grated
Cut zucchini lengthways into quarters then into 1cm dice. Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add zucchini, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until zucchini has softened. Remove 1/3 cup zucchini and reserve for garnishing soup. Add stock to remaining zucchini and simmer over medium heat for 8 minutes or until zucchini is soft and transparent. Purée in batches in a food processor until smooth then return to saucepan. Adjust seasoning to taste. If not serving at once, cool, cover and chill. To serve, stir in parsley and parmesan and bring to just below a simmer. Ladle into 6 warm bowls and top with a spoonful of reserved zucchini. Serve immediately.
Oh, and a couple more fab zucchini recipes that are useful to have on hand at this time of year. Zucchini and Basil Bruschetta is an economical and healthy vegetarian snack you can throw together in a hurry when friends turn up hungry and your fridge looks almost bare. Just grab two or three zucchini and a handful of basil from the garden, toast some bread and you're there.
The topping also works as a salad alongside grilled meats or fish or can be served in a bowl and scooped up with toasted pita crisps. Just remember to squeeze as much liquid out of the grated zucchini as possible before stir-frying it in a pan until just soft. To see a video of me making this dish, visit my YouTube Channel.
The lovely thing about zucchini is the way their mild flavour goes well with so many foods. In my Warm Zucchini and Prawn Salad they're partnered with the crisp freshness of raw fennel, the saltiness of feta and the crunch of pine nuts. It's a great lunch dish served alone, or pair it with crusty bread and a green salad for dinner.