Courgettes, also known as zucchini, are a very versatile vegetable with a delicate flavour. Courgettes were not widely eaten in Europe before the 20th century, but have been cultivated in Central America for 5,000 years and are related to watermelons, gherkins and cucumbers. They are plentiful in the summer months and anyone who has ever grown courgettes will know that they seem to turn into marrows before your eyes and are best when picked young, as they have more flavour and less water.
They mix well with peppers, tomatoes and herbs, put onto puff pastry to make a Provençal tart. They can also be added to a savoury flan, grated or sliced and gently steamed first and mixed with an egg and goat’s cheese or Feta cheese filling. Grate them raw, mix them with cheese and, possibly, cornmeal, and put them in savoury quick breads or scones.
They can also be added to cakes, whether in a spicy loaf cake or a chocolate cake with a difference. Mix some with carrots to make a carrot and courgette cake. Some grated into a muffin mixture, again savoury or sweet, works very well. The green from the skin gives an interesting speckle to the cakes but, if preferred, peel them first.
Courgette season: June to end of September
Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from the world-famous Leiths School of Food and Wine