Nigel Slater’s summer courgette recipes | Nigel Slater recipes | Life and style

The courgettes keep on coming. Anyone with a plant in a pot will already be wondering when they are going to stop. By August we will all be begging for mercy. I like them best when they are small, halved or sliced lengthways, cooked on the grill, then dropped into a dressing of olive oil, lemon and basil. That way, they can be tossed with pappardelle and capers or served with paper-thin slices of beef or with grilled prawns. You can tuck them into a soft bun with garlic mayonnaise, and I particularly value them with grated parmesan, more basil and lumps of burrata.

You can stop the courgettes in their tracks by cooking the flowers. A light airy batter in scarily hot oil and you have crackling fritters to serve with a wedge of lemon and grains of salt. This time I swapped my usual accompaniments for a bowl of fresh, soft cheese through which I had stirred salted, grated courgette.

Summer squashes are the easiest of all home-grown vegetables. They ask little more than sunshine and plenty of water, litres of the stuff. But a couple of plants will provide you with lots of fruits once they get going. I grow them in deep pots on the back steps. As the summer blazes on, you become quite blasé about your bounty of golden flowers and green fruits, and then suddenly they are gone, their dinner plate leaves reduced to a crisp, their energy spent. But for now, there’s more than enough.

Grilled courgettes with beef and ginger

I am not usually the guy to tell anyone to remove the fat from a piece of beef, but for this, a dish where the meat is eaten raw, it is essential. The strip of creamy beef fat that you have removed is useful: keep it in the fridge, clingfilm wrapped, then use pieces of it in place of olive oil to start frying vegetables, particularly onions. Keep the heat low, so liquid fat runs from the lump, then turn up the heat slightly and cook your vegetables. Onions, fried on a low heat for a good 20 to 30 minutes, are wonderful this way.

Serves 2
beef 300g, topside or sirloin
courgettes 2, medium size

For the dressing:
lemon juice 75ml
olive oil 100ml
ginger 40g
Thai basil 10g

Remove all fat from the topside. It is well worth taking your time over this. Wrap the meat tightly in clingfilm and place in the freezer for an hour. This is simply to make the beef easier to carve thinly, it will not freeze.

Slice the courgettes lengthways very thinly. You can use a vegetable peeler if you prefer, taking long strokes from the length of each courgette. Discard the seedy core.

Put the lemon juice in a mixing bowl, add the olive oil and season with salt. Peel the ginger and grate finely into the oil and lemon juice. Tear the basil leaves or shred them with a knife and add to the dressing.

Warm a grill or griddle pan. Toss the courgettes briefly into the dressing then place on the griddle, letting them colour lightly, about 2 minutes on each side. As each one becomes ready, remove from the heat and return to the dressing, tossing lightly to coat.

Remove the beef from the freezer and slice very thinly with a long, thin-bladed carving knife. Each slice should be cut as thin as you can. (If necessary you can place the meat between two sheets of greaseproof paper or clingfilm and bat it gently with a rolling pin to get it as thin as possible.) Place the slices of beef in a single layer on a plate as you go.

Remove the courgettes from the dressing and arrange on two plates together with the slices of beef. Trickle the dressing over, grind a little black pepper and serve.

Courgette flowers with fresh cheese

Blooming lovely: courgette flowers with fresh cheese.



Blooming lovely: courgette flowers with fresh cheese. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

I suggest a soft cheese for this. Something light and creamy, such as a robiola, would work nicely, or perhaps a milky ricotta.

Serves 2
courgette flowers 8

For the batter:
plain flour 95g
cornflour 25g
ice-cold water 175ml
egg white of 1 large

For the cheese accompaniment:
courgettes 3 small ones
butter 30g
olive oil 3 tbsp
fresh, white cheese 300g

For frying:
groundnut or sunflower oil a deep pan

Make the batter by combining the plain flour and cornflour in a mixing bowl. Pour in the cold water – it must be ice cold – and mix without bashing out the lumps that form. You don’t want a smooth batter. Set aside in the fridge for an hour.

Prepare the accompaniment. Wipe, then coarsely grate the courgettes. Melt the butter in a shallow pan set over a moderate heat then pour in the olive oil. Add the grated courgettes to the hot fat, lower the heat and let it cook for 5 or 6 minutes until it starts to soften and become tender. It shouldn’t colour beyond a bright, pale green.

Transfer the courgettes to a bowl then fold in the soft, fresh cheese and season generously with salt and black pepper.

Get the oil hot. Beat the egg white to a froth, but not so much that it will stand in peaks, then mix it loosely into the batter. Dip the courgette flowers, one by one, into the batter then lower them carefully into the hot oil. Let them fry for 2 or 3 minutes until pale. Remove them before the batter turns gold and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately, while the batter is still crisp, with a bowl of the courgette and cheese at its side.

Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater



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