Stuffed marrows reek of wartime privation; large, woolly issues made to face in for every part from meat to bananas, due to their overwhelming lack of any discernible flavour. Stuffed courgettes, with their thinner skins and creamy flesh, are a much more engaging prospect, nonetheless, and standard all through southern Europe and the Middle East. The basic Provençal model, filled with sunshine itself* is one in every of my favourites: a easy accompaniment to grilled fish or meat, they make a really satisfying meal in their very own proper, and the recipe is definitely tailored to different Mediterranean veg comparable to peppers, aubergines – and even our very personal marrow, do you have to be a fan.
(*probably not – that might burn your tongue)
Many recipes name particularly for the spherical selection, which may be laborious to trace down within the UK. They’re a neater form for stuffing, however when you’ve received a glut of lengthy courgettes, they’ll work simply as nicely – in spite of everything, in the event that they’re ok for Michel Roux Jr, who waxes lyrical about his mother-in-law’s extra-large courgettes (“gorged with sun, they really taste like no other”), then they’ll in all probability do for the remainder of us.
Fortunately, the center doesn’t go to waste: each recipe I strive incorporates it into the stuffing. You can depart a lid on spherical courgettes, when you like – they give the impression of being somewhat candy in Bruno Loubet’s recipe from his guide Mange Tout – however it is going to forestall what’s inside from crisping up within the oven, so I favor to make use of them within the stuffing as nicely.
Having scooped out the center, some recipes, together with Roux’s and Richard Olney’s, then transfer instantly on to the stuffing course of, however many select to pre-cook them – Loubet shallow fries them till golden, Jacques Médecin, the infamous former mayor of Nice and writer of the surprisingly palatable Cuisine Niçoise, blanches them in boiling water, as does long-term Provence resident Patricia Wells, whereas celebrated prepare dinner Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier close to Marseilles chooses to deep-fry hers in olive oil as an alternative. Olney, who collaborated with Peyraud on a guide of her recipes, Lulu’s Provençal Table, writes: “I asked her if that was not unusual. She answered: ‘That’s the way my mother always did it, so that’s the way I do it.’”
While something fried in olive oil is inevitably scrumptious, the method does make the courgettes somewhat tender and greasy, whereas these put within the oven uncooked take so lengthy to prepare dinner that the stuffing dries out. Best, I feel, to parboil them: it’s simpler than shallow-frying them, though there’s no want to take action for so long as Médecin recommends: Wells’ 5 minutes proves fairly ample.
Peyraud can also be a controversialist relating to filling her courgettes: “I know that most people add chopped meats to the stuffing, but I don’t think meat makes any sense in stuffed vegetables.” I’m inclined to agree: Roux’s minced pork and sausagemeat combination could be very standard with testers, however doesn’t ship the sunny southern flavours I’m after.
That mentioned, Wells’ courgettes, filled with a mix of recent goat’s cheese and sauteed courgette flesh, appear to lack one thing – a stuffing wants carbohydrate in some kind to be actually satisfying, I feel. There are many choices; breadcrumbs are standard, both soaked in milk or water, and Loubet makes use of couscous, however our favorite is Médecin’s rice, which retains its form higher within the oven, giving the completed dish a extra fascinating, and fewer stodgy, texture. Undercooking the rice itself will assist with this – Médecin’s is somewhat tender after 20 minutes’ laborious boiling after which 45 minutes within the oven – and doing so with different elements, together with inventory, will give it a flavour increase, in addition to saving on the washing-up.
I additionally don’t suppose the filling wants the eggs that he, Peyraud and Roux put in; it makes the combo too moist. However, like Olney, I shall be including diced tomatoes, which can assist to lubricate proceedings.
The ubiquitous onion is a should, as is a beneficiant serving to of garlic, although for a much less Mediterranean vibe, Roux’s carrots and leeks are additionally somewhat good. Whatever you utilize, be sure you fry them first to cut back the water content material, otherwise you’ll find yourself with soggy rice.
handful of salty cheese comparable to parmesan, pecorino or a tough goat’s selection will add sufficient richness to render Médecin’s petit salé cured pork pointless, though when you occur to have some handy, it’s a nice addition, as, I believe, can be anchovies.
Herbs and spices
Be liberal with the herbs right here; each courgettes and rice can take it. Médecin makes use of basil, which I don’t suppose actually stands as much as extended baking; Peyraud and Olney go for parsley; however my favorite is Roux’s mint, which provides a stunning recent flavour. For a usually French contact, you may also add a pinch of curry powder, as in Wells’ recipe – it’s a, maybe surprisingly, standard ingredient throughout the Channel.
Pre-cooking the courgettes permits a briefer, hotter bake, which can give the greens a greater flavour, in addition to crisping the breadcrumbs all of us so get pleasure from in Médecin and Peyraud’s recipes. Make certain the courgettes are tender earlier than taking them out of the oven; a number of the recipes I strive drastically underestimate the cooking time in a house oven.
If you utilize meat, deglazing the roasting tin with white wine and inventory, as Roux suggests, to make a sauce, is a pleasant concept, however there’s not a lot level with a vegetable and rice combination. A dollop of aïoli, nonetheless, would make a really apt accompaniment.
Perfect Provençal stuffed courgettes
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 4 as a facet, 2 as a primary
4 medium spherical courgettes or 2 giant lengthy ones
2 tbsp olive oil, plus somewhat further
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium, ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
80g long-grain rice
150ml vegetable (or hen) inventory
1 giant bunch recent mint
50g finely grated parmesan
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
Basil, to garnish
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gasoline 4. Cut the tops off the spherical courgettes, if utilizing, and scoop out the flesh with a grapefruit spoon or melon baller, taking care to go away sturdy partitions across the outdoors; when you’ve received lengthy courgettes, reduce them in 1/2 lengthways and scoop out the flesh in the identical means. In both case, roughly chop the flesh, together with the lids of the spherical variety.
Bring a big pan of salted water to a simmer, add the courgettes and blanch for 5 minutes. In the meantime, put together a sink stuffed with iced water and, as soon as the courgettes are carried out, scoop them out of the pan and into the sink to chill down (this may assist preserve them good and inexperienced).
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium-low warmth, add the onion, and prepare dinner till tender and golden. Meanwhile, reduce the tomatoes in 1/2, scoop out and discard the watery seeds, then finely chop the flesh.
Add to the pan with the courgette flesh and garlic, prepare dinner till tender, then stir within the rice, add the inventory, carry to a simmer and prepare dinner for about 12 minutes, till many of the liquid has evaporated. Meanwhile, decide and roughly chop the mint leaves.
Stir the parmesan and mint into the stuffing combine and season to style. Put the hollowed-out courgettes on a greased baking sheet and divide the filling between them, packing it in nicely, then cowl with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
Toss the breadcrumbs in a splash of olive oil, season, sprinkle on prime of the courgettes, and bake for an extra 15 minutes. Tear a number of basil leaves excessive earlier than serving.
• What are your favorite recipes for stuffed greens – and, certainly, for a glut of courgettes? And which different Provençal recipes would you suggest for the column?
Felicity Cloake from theguardian.com