Courgette, or zucchini, is a fabulous and versatile vegetable. If you are a gardener or eat seasonally, it starts becoming available in allotments and gardens in northern Europe around this time of year. So, we thought it was ideal timing for this article to look the wonderful courgette and give you five recipe ideas for you to try out in your kitchen.
Health benefits of courgette
Courgette is a summer squash, most commonly available in late spring and throughout summer, although in many supermarkets it is available all year round. They are great if you are watching your weight as they only contain 17 calories per 100g and are virtually fat free! Courgettes are a great source of potassium and magnesium (both of which help to convert vitamin D into its active form in the body, as well as helping to prevent stroke). They also contain vitamin C, which helps your body to absorb iron better as well as boosting your immune system (vitamin C is an antioxidant). With good fibre content (particularly in the skin of the courgette), they are great for keeping your bowel healthy.
Buying and storing
If you are buying in a supermarket, look for small courgettes (6-8 inches / 15-20cm) that feel firm to the touch and a little heavy. Larger courgettes are good for stuffing but have slightly less taste. Minor scratches and small bruises can be common and are usually fine. Don’t buy them if they look or feel soft or spongy, or those with soft or wrinkled ends, as these are signs that the courgette has been sat waiting for you to buy it for quite a while! Store in the fridge. Wash in running water before use, possibly with a light scrub to remove any ground-in dirt. Trim the ends off if cooking, but leave the lot intact for juicing.
1. Courgette and lemon juice
A fantastic quick and easy juice. All you need is a juicer, one courgette and a slice of lemon. Juice the courgette and lemon and serve with ice cubes for a refreshing pick-up juice. Try adding courgette to any of your favourite juices to bring a creamy consistency
2. Courgette pasta: spaghetti
If you are looking for a gluten-free vegan alternative to pasta, then courgette is an ideal vegetable to use.
To make spaghetti, wash your courgette, chop off the ends, then use a potato peeler to peel away layers. Lay each layer down, then using a sharp knife cut the courgette into slices, the thickness of spaghetti (or linguine). You can eat raw like this, or hot. To serve hot, bring a pan of hot water to the boil, blanch the courgette (in a pan of boiling water) for a minute or two then drain well and serve.
You can serve with kidney-bean balls, tomato sauce and a large leafy salad. Add millet or rice salad for a complete meal. If you are looking for a fun or creative gadget to add to your kitchen, you can purchase a spiraliser at minimal cost – this makes swirls and thin spaghetti like shapes from vegetables, making raw food even more funky!
3. Oven roasted courgette with lemon and garlic
This is a real favourite here with guests and is so simple. Takes the ends off your courgette, then cut into thick slices, or cut diagonally across to make large chunks. Place in a baking tray, squeeze over some lemon juice, add a few pieces of chopped garlic and sprinkle over with fresh herbs (basil or rosemary is always lovely). Drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil, add a few tablespoons of water (to prevent sticking) and place in a medium oven for 20-30 minutes until the courgette is starting to brown and go soft. Shake the baking tray once or twice during the baking. Serve and enjoy.
You could also do this on a BBQ – place the courgette, lemon, herbs, oil and water in a silver foil packet (rolling the ends to keep the juice in) and leave at the side on gentle heat until ready to eat.
4. Courgette and cucumber carpaccio
This raw dish is lovely, light and refreshing perfect for a summer lunch, or to accompany your evening meal. Make the dressing by combining ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar with freshly chopped herbs (we love 1 tbsp mint, 2 tsp dill, 1 tbsp parsley). Wash your courgette and cucumber then remove the ends. Cut into thin slices and arrange on a plate, alternating slices of cucumber and courgette. When ready to serve, pour 3 tbsps of the dressing over the top of your veggies, top with a handful of toasted and chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper. Any left over dressing can be kept in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week, and used as a wonderful herby dressing over any leafy salads.
5. Courgette soup
Light but filling, this soup is perfect for light evening meals, when the weather can still be cool enough to want to eat a hot bowl of soup. Alternatively, you can serve it cold as a refreshing summer soup. This recipe makes enough for 3-4 servings.
1 large onion cut in chunks
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1½ large courgettes, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and whole
1 tbsp lemon
1 large handful of fresh parsley, chopped (or use rosemary or thyme)
Few sprigs of fresh mint, chopped
1½ litres of water (or homemade vegetable stock)
½ courgette, grated
Cook the onion and celery in a pan, with a little water, until they are soft (about 5 minutes). Add the courgette and garlic, squeeze over the lemon and leave to cook slowly (topping with a little more water to prevent sticking), until the courgette turns lightly brown and looks soft. Add in the water or stock, plus the herbs and leave to cook for a further five minutes. Turn off the heat and blitz. Before serving, add in the grated courgette.
If you want to make it even creamier, add one large sweet potato (peeled and finely diced) at the same time as adding the courgette.