Not another one!

Photo by Margaret Ellis
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“Oh God! Not more courgettes!” they wail, as I return triumphant from the allotment with my basket heaped with produce.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an ‘allotmenteer’ in possession of a glut must be in want of a recipe – better still, recipes. What can we do with that sudden rush of produce if it cannot just be blanched and frozen? How do we avoid our nearest and dearest rejecting the fruits of our labours because they are bored with eating the same thing over and over?

Let’s start with the courgettes. My go-to recipe is this tian because it can be frozen at the halfway stage, meaning you can still enjoy courgettes in the depth of winter.

All recipes are for two people, as it is easier to scale up than scale down!

Courgette and Rice Tian

500g courgettes

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, chopped small

2 tbsp olive oil

300ml courgette juice, plus milk

100g grated parmesan cheese

120ml pudding rice

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp salt

Black pepper

(100g cubed pancetta, fried. Optional, but nice!)

Grate the courgettes into a colander and mix the salt in well; then leave the colander over a bowl to collect the juice for about 20 minutes. Squeeze as much juice as possible out of the courgettes, making sure you hold on to that juice. Then, (and, yes, it is a little tedious) rinse the courgettes under cold water and squeeze them out all over again, but this time, don’t keep the juice. (In all honesty, I am going to miss that step out next time I make this to see if it makes any real difference.) Top up the courgette juice with milk to make 300ml.

Heat most of the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic gently until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Add the drained courgettes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook a further two minutes. Then add almost all the parmesan, reserving enough for a topping, and combine well. Add a few grinds of black pepper, to taste, along with the rice and courgette/milk liquid.

At this point, you can simply freeze the mixture until you want it. When the time comes, oil an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the mixture 2cm deep). If you have frozen your mixture, let it thaw at room temperature.

Before cooking, add the cooked pancetta, if you want, and sprinkle the parmesan topping on.

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas Mark 6. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and give it another 10 to 15 minutes until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

This makes a good lunch or supper dish or, with a good salad and some crusty bread, a substantial meal. I often scale up the ingredients and make two or three at a time ready for the dark days of winter.

Here is another recipe for Courgette and Orzo bake which you can use for a change, this time using that useful little pasta, orzo (it’s the one that looks like rice, but then surprises you with its deliciously smooth texture.)

For a taste of the Mediterranean, you might like to try this.

Roasted Courgettes with Fennel and Tomatoes

1 bulb fennel, cored and sliced

12–20 small tomatoes

4–6 small or medium courgettes

Some herbs – depending on what you have

2–3 tbsp olive oil

Juice of half a lemon, made up to 100ml with white wine

200g orzo

Zest of half a lemon (remember to zest it before you juice it!)

Large handful of breadcrumbs

1 tbsp toasted pine nuts

100g feta cheese (or you could use ricotta or fried halloumi, if you prefer)

Put the fennel, tomatoes, courgettes and herbs – try thyme, rosemary, marjoram – into an ovenproof dish and toss with most of the oil. Pour over the lemon juice and wine, cover with a lid or foil and place in an oven at 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4 for one to two hours until the courgettes are really soft, almost floppy.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling water until al dente. When the courgettes are cooked, gently stir through the orzo, along with the crumbled feta. If it looks dry, add a little of the orzo water (or wine, if that’s your mood). Mix together the breadcrumbs, remaining olive oil, lemon zest and toasted pine nuts, and scatter over the top. Return to the oven for ten minutes or until the top is crunchy.

And now to summer cabbage. My favourite is Golden Acre and I have been growing it for years. It is a pale greenish white with a lovely crunchy texture and it takes very well to being planted at 38 to 46cm apart to provide lots of smaller heads. The best thing to do with it is to slice it up fresh, wash out any stray slugs or caterpillars and fry briefly in butter as a side dish.

It is hard to make cabbage the hero of a meal, and harder still to find recipes which will freeze. Fortunately, the people of Asturias and Galicia in northern Spain have a seemingly endless range of recipes for bean and cabbage soup. These will freeze like a charm and give you a lovely lunch or supper when winter comes. You could just type ‘Spanish bean and cabbage soup’ into a search engine, browse through and choose one that takes your fancy. Meanwhile, here is a generic version with the essential ingredients of cabbage, pulses, potatoes and tomatoes.

Spanish Cabbage and Bean Soup

100g chorizo sausage

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 fairly large floury potatoes, peeled and diced small

Herbs – depending on what you have in the garden

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 summer cabbage (about 23cm diameter), shredded and washed thoroughly

250ml vegetable stock

400g tin of chick peas (or butter beans, or cannellini beans)

Slice the chorizo sausage into rounds about as thick as a pound coin. Put them in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry both sides carefully until they are just beginning to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving all that lovely oil behind.

Now add the onion, garlic and potatoes, and fry gently until the onion is soft and all the vegetables are beginning to colour. You may need to add a little more olive oil, depending on how much has come out of the chorizo.

Add the tomatoes, cabbage, herbs and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes begin to disintegrate. This gives a lovely thick texture to the soup.

When the soup has reached the consistency you like, add the chick peas or beans and warm through.

If you are serving immediately, add the chorizo at the last minute. If you intend to freeze it, freeze the soup and chorizo separately so the chorizo retains some of its crispness.