And here is another recipe to use up courgettes. These bars are soft, sturdy and filling. I like it when things like this are not too sweet, but this recipe makes bars that are really just barely sweet. They were almost not sweet enough for my taste (although my husband adores them as they are), so when you like things to be sweeter, add more honey. They have quite an unique taste and texture, so it is quite hard to describe it accurately. Think more along the line of a sturdy baked oatmeal, than something like a cookie bar. They can be frozen very well, so you can make a batch and eat a square each day as a snack.
Courgette oatmeal bars (18 squares)
Slightly adapted from A Sweet Baker
2 cups grated courgette (about 1 large or 2 small courgettes)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium banana)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
Preheat the oven to 175C and line a 23×33 cm baking dish with baking paper.
Mix courgette, eggs, coconut oil, milk, honey, banana, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla well. Stir through the rolled oats, them fold in the raisins and walnuts.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and flatten with the back of a spoon until it is even.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove from the baking dish (using the baking paper) and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for 2 days, or freeze them.
Another recipe for the courgette surplus. These muffins are very moist, which means that they keep well and can be frozen as well. The moistness mainly comes from the carrot and the courgette, but the muffins certainly don’t taste like vegetables. They are barely sweet, and walnuts add a bit more texture. Because the muffins consist mainly of vegetables and whole wheat flour, and only have a little bit added sugar (in the form of honey/maple syrup) and fat, they are actually quite healthy and filling. My muffins are a bit darker than you can expect from the recipe, because I used stroop (Dutch molasses/treacle), which is darker than honey/maple syrup.
Carrot Courgette Muffins (12 muffins)
Slightly adapted from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
45 g butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated courgette
1/2 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 175C and line a muffin pan with paper or silicon liners.
Mix flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda, and mix together butter, honey, egg and vanilla extract in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir together until just combined. Add the courgette, carrot, raisins and walnuts and stir until just mixed. Divide the batter over the muffin cups.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Leave to cool 10 minutes in the muffin pan, then take out to cool further.
Store in an airtight container for 3 days maximum, or freeze.
It’s courgette-time. The courgette plants in our garden are not that productive unfortunately (or luckily?), but they do tend to grow courgettes simultaneously, so you always have more than one, or none. So new recipes that use a lot of courgette are always welcome, and this is my new star.
I usually grill courgette or eat it raw, so when I ate a dish with courgette that was cooked in bouillon in a restaurant when I was on vacation, it was a big inspiration. Courgette can be a bit bland, so flavouring it with a flavoursome bouillon helps a lot. And cooking gives the courgette a completely different texture than when you grill it or eat it raw, it is juicy but firm. Usually with filled vegetables you put them in the oven to cook, but that takes a long time and tends to make the vegetables dry, so lightly cooking the courgette was a great alternative (and also nice to not have to turn on the oven in hot weather).
Couscous spice mix was something I turned to as a shortcut: one of my go-to superfast to cook and not to heavy on the stomach meals is couscous cooked with bouillon, with a “sauce” of beef mince, a bag of precut Provençal vegetables and a packet of couscous spice mix. It’s on the table in 10 minutes max, and is delicious too. And I keep couscous, stock cubes and couscous spice mix in my pantry, and Provençal vegetables and beef mince in the freezer, so it’s a backup dinner as well. But because I like the spice mix, I use it in other dishes too.
Stuffed courgette (serves 2 generously, or 2 + leftovers for lunch)
1 vegetable stock cube
150 g couscous
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250 g beef mince
3 tbsp couscous spice mix (amount necessary may differ with the kind of spice mix you use)
Remove top and bottom from the courgettes and half lengthways. Scoop out most of the flesh, chop this up into cubes and set aside.
Bring 250 ml of water to the boil in a pan that can contain the courgettes. Dissolve the stock cube in the water. Add the courgettes and place a lid on the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain, but reserve the stock.
Place the couscous in a bowl or small pan. Reduce the stock to 150 ml, make sure it is boiling, then pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl or pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, sauté on low heat until soft and translucent. Turn up the heat, add the garlic and mince, and fry for a few minutes. Add the spice mixed and the chopped up courgette flesh, fry until fragrant and the courgette is cooked.
Scoop the filling into the courgette halves (you will have generous) and serve.
Greek salad is a bit of a problem for me. I do like the idea, but I always find it tasting a bit raw and harsh (because of the raw paprika) and it tends to get very wet and soggy from the vegetables, draining away all the flavour of a dressing. Luckily, I found the solution: I made it into a couscous salad, roasted the paprika to make it a bit more mellow, and threw in some other ingredients that I like (roast courgette, almonds and dried apricots, some lettuce from my garden) to make it into a complete meal. Leftovers would be great for lunch the next day.
Summer couscous salad (serves 1 generously)
40 g couscous
1 red paprika
1 clove garlic
1/2 tbsp olive oil
few sprigs of oregano
a few leaves of lettuce
50 g olives
75 g feta
30 g almonds, roasted
30 g apricots, sliced
Preheat the grill as high as it gets.
Cook the couscous according to the instructions on the packet (it varies between brands). I like to cook it in bouillon instead of water to give it more flavour.
Quarter the red paprika and discard the seeds. Place in a baking tin skin side up and place under the grill, meanwhile slice the courgette and grill the slices in a hot skillet. When the skin of the paprika is black, it is ready. Cover the baking tin with tinfoil and set aside to cool until manageable. Then peel of the skin. Slice in bite-sized strips. (for me, this is the easiest way to grill paprika). Crush the garlic, chop the oregano coarsely and place in a bowl together with the olive oil. Dump the paprika and the grilled courgette into the flavoured oil. Add the couscous and mix. Slice the tomato and cucumber in cubes and mix with the couscous-grilled vegetables mixture. Serve with the lettuce, feta, olives, almonds and apricots. Alternatively, serve the couscous-mix with the feta, olives, almonds and apricots mixed through, on a bed of lettuce.
On one of the last summery days (at least, that is the expectation) of the year, we ate two lovely salads as our diner.
You all know the standard insalata caprese you get at (Italian) restaurants. Stone cold and under-ripe tomatoes, inferior mozzarella and some basil, drizzled with cheap olive oil, salt and pepper. Not a very nice dish… But if you make it correct, you have a delicious antipasto (appetizer). Start by looking for good, ripe and tasty tomatoes and make sure that they are on room temperature. Then the mozzarella. Don’t bother to make this salad with the mozzarella you get in the supermarket. Mozzarella is a fresh cheese and should be eaten within a few days after making it. As you can understand, this is certainly not the case with supermarket mozzarella, causing it to be dry and tasteless. Fortunately there are some buffalo farmers in the Netherlands, which also produce mozzarella. This time we had Mozzarella from the BuffelFarm (availability on website), but I want to try the one from Orobianco (available at cheese shop van der Ley in Groningen). Because they are in such a close proximity from where we live, the cheese is very fresh. I usually find mozzarella quite bland, but this mozzarella has lots of flavour and is very moist and unctuous. Certainly worth it! And then finish your salad with good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and basil if you like it on your salad (I don’t). Lovely!
The couscous salad was an accidental creation. We had planned quite an elaborate dish to cook, but I really did not have the energy to prepare it. So I checked out the fridge and found halve a block of feta, some cucumber and a yellow paprika, which I thought would perfectly combine with couscous, and would be fast as well. So I prepared my couscous as stated on the package (this really varies a lot between brands!) with some vegetable stock to give it lots of flavour. After cooking/soaking I stirred it well to make the couscous nice and fluffy instead of sticky and dense, and I added a little knob of butter. Then I added the cucumber and paprika (diced in small cubes) and the feta (in standard size salad cubes). Season with just a bit of pepper, and voila, a fast and healthy meal!
Note: to make this recipe truly vegetarian, make sure you use a feta (or similar white cheese)/mozzarella that is suitable for vegetarians (i.e. does not contain animal derived rennet).
Even though it is rainy and cold around here, I am sure that we will get some summer soon. And then this fresh and light salad will be very welcome.
Fennel, radish and courgette salad (4 servings)
adapted from Whole Living Eat Well
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced finely
1 small courgettes, in batons
1 small head of fennel, tops removed, thinly sliced
100 g radishes, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and dried (I really dislike capers, so I didn’t add them)
For the vinaigrette, combine the lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Add anchovy and mix well. Slowly add oil in a steady stream while whisking until incorporated; season generously with salt and pepper. Add courgette, fennel, radishes, spring onions, parsley, and capers (if using) to bowl; toss well and serve immediately.
Note: you can add potatoes to the salad to make it a complete meal.