Cost: minimal, around 40p for a two-person serving
The courgette plants we grew from seed are now sprawling triffids that dominate the vegetable patch. A couple of courgettes reach frankfurter-size on a daily basis now, and I try to pick them before they get too big. A month or so ago we only had flowers, which are rather lovely stuffed with ricotta and herbs, brushed with olive oil and grilled until they crisp up, and these alone would be worth growing the plants for, but now it is almost August and we have a full on glut.
With such excess, it is easy to get into slightly dangerous habits. Courgettes sautéed in butter with caramelised onions and crispy nuggets of bacon was an early favourite, served with pasta and topped with cheese. The pasta was wholewheat but let’s be fair, if this was a nod towards healthy eating, healthy eating’s response would have been an almighty blanking. “Um, I think not!”
This recipe, however, is satisfying on all sorts of levels. It is quick, cheap and easy – but it is also extremely healthy and utterly delicious. Courgette fries are a mainstay of some fancy burger restaurants such as Byron; the tinge of green hints at a virtue their potato counterparts could never attain. But most recipes call for deep frying – this method does produce crisply perfect fries, but they are greaseless and retain a depth of flavour, a certain sweetness of the courgette, and a moistness as well. The courgette inside is moist but not mushy, the burnished carapace breaking apart to yield a velvety interior. They really seem like an indulgence – a luxury even, but are so quick and easy (30 mins from start to finish) and very healthy, chips that make you feel better, not worse after eating them.
I would serve these as a substitute for normal chips, e.g. alongside a really good burger, or even some scampi or battered fish. They are also a healthy alternative to crisps, hitting that salty-crunchy spot.
Recipe: Baked Courgette Fries
4 small courgettes or 2 shop-bought normal sized, cut into batons about half a centimetre thick at the thinnest part, e.g. slice in half lengthways, and then divide each half lengthways into 3-4, before cutting to desired length
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 Tbsp wholewheat flour
1 tsp caster sugar
Half a tsp cayenne pepper or paprika
Cooking oil spray
Preheat the oven to 230C.
1. In a large colander, salt the courgettes liberally and leave for about 10 mins to draw out the excess moisture
2. Prepare the flour and seasonings in a plastic bag (e.g. a freezer bag with no holes) and beat the egg. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment
3. Rinse the courgettes and pat dry with a clean tea towel
4. Dip a courgette baton in the egg and then shake in the bag of seasoned flour (you can do this in batches of 4-5), then place on the lined baking sheet
5. Arrange the floured courgette batons in a a single layer on the baking sheet without them touching
6. Spray lightly with cooking oil spray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp
The health benefits can be offset slightly by serving with mayonnaise.