Monday, 18 August 2014
The well-fed pescatarian cooks stuffed courgette flowers
It has always been something of an ambition of mine to cook stuffed courgette flowers, but the opportunity has never really arisen, until recently. On a family holiday to Tuscany that saw three generations of Dodds all staying in a stunning farmhouse in the hills, I spotted the all-important ingredient - courgette flowers.
My mum was buying vegetables at one of the stands during the weekly market in Ponte a Moriano and there in a pile were the freshest and most tempting-looking courgette flowers I have ever seen. If I was ever going to cook this delicacy, now was the perfect time.
I rejoined the rest of the family at a small cafe on the edge of the square clutching my bag full of courgette flowers and not doing a good job of hiding my excitement. But despite the yellow blooms being the vital part of the dish, you also need to have something to stuff inside them, so off I skipped to the local cheese shop.
My Spanish-influenced attempts at Italian helped me establish that the shop did not sell ricotta, but had something similar and I bought the lot. The kind man behind the counter was patient with me, but when I clearly didn't understand something he was trying to explain to me, he called for a younger assistant from the back. He told me in excellent English that I needed to rub the cheese with olive oil to bring out the flavour.
Back at the villa I did add some olive oil and since the cheese was firmer than ricotta, I chopped it up as small as I could, while adding herbs and garlic. Our accommodation had minimal items in the larder, so we had to buy even the simplest of additions for meals. With this in mind, I made a beer batter, as alcohol was something we were not in short supply of!
It is safe to say that stuffing courgette flowers is a fairly fiddly process. First you need to cut off the stalks and remove the stamens from the centre. This should be done carefully so as not to tear the petals, giving the potential for the filling to ooze out. Twisting the tops once they have been filled helps to keep everything in place, then it is just a case of dipping them in the batter and frying them. Eating them hot is a must.
One member of our party is not particularly keen on cheese, so I made an artichoke and tomato alternative for her. We all ended up trying this variation, which was pretty good, although the cheesy stuffed courgette flowers were definitely the favourites.