We wait half the year for our vegetable gardens to spring into life; months of careful planning, nurturing plants from seed and praying that slugs, rabbits and other unwelcome garden guests leave us something to nibble on. Then just as the sun comes out and the plants decide to do something productive, we tend to go on holiday. Turn your back for five minutes (or perhaps for ten days, towards France) and you’ll return to find a jungle where you politely-trained plants were, most likely ruled by the triffid-like tendrils of the courgette plant. Courgettes seem to grow before one’s very eyes, graduating from tender crudité to chutney-bound marrow in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen market gardens become courgette battlefields by the end of August, green soldiers abandoned in their scores as gardeners run out of ideas for what to do with them.
Nature’s slightly mischievous way is to combine her most fruitful months with those when you can barely muster the energy to pick her bounty, far less swelter in a hot kitchen. We feel bound to preserve these gifts but no less gluts of homegrown produce. I’ll just about persevere for the sheer joy beheld in a stash of raspberry jam for the dull winter months, but I would sooner leave my courgettes to slip away peacefully in the undergrowth than spend hours over a hot stove for chutney that no one, in living memory, has ever eaten.
The answer is to find a recipe that makes as many as possible disappear with a minimum of effort, and in my mind, fritters are it. One batch alone will see you through three meals; topped with a poached egg and smoked salmon for breakfast; cold with tzatziki, quick pickle and a green salad for lunch; squashed in a burger bun with raw grated beetroot and goat’s cheese as a vegetarian alternative for the last minute evening barbecue.
Courgette Fritters with Quick Red Onion Pickle & Tzatziki
For the pickle:
1 medium sized red onion
100ml red wine vinegar
Peel and halve the onion, removing the root. Cut in half lengthways, then finely slice.
Put into a small bowl or ramekin and cover with the red wine vinegar. Leave to macerate for as long as it takes to make the rest of the meal.
Drain to serve, reserving the vinegar in a tupperware or bottle for the next time.
For the tzatziki:
250g Greek yoghurt
Juice of a lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp paprika
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon or melon baller, remove the watery seeds from the middle. Grate on the coarse side of a box grater.
Pop the grated cucumber into a sieve and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt – this will help to remove excess water.
- Mix together the yoghurt, several twists of black pepper, juice of a lemon & two cloves of crushed garlic in a bowl. Finely chop one of the bunches of mint and fold into the yoghurt.
- Squeeze out as much excess water from the cucumber as possible and add the pulp into the yoghurt mixture. Stir well and leave for fifteen minutes to let the flavours infuse.
To serve, sprinkle with paprika.
For the fritters:
4 courgettes (around 700g)
Bunch mint & bunch parsley, picked & finely chopped
Zest of a lemon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
3 eggs, whisked
140g plain flour
½ tsp pepper
200g crumbled feta
- Grate the courgettes on the coarse side of the grater and pop into the sieve. Once you’ve done all of them, press the courgettes to release excess water.
Mix together in a large bowl with all the other ingredients, using a spatula to really fold the wet into the dry.
- Heat a little glug of olive oil on a medium heat in your largest frying pan. Carefully add a tablespoon of the mixture at a time, patting down slightly to make roughly 2cm thick fritters. Fry for around 2 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp.
- Keep warm in a 100 degree oven until you’ve used up all the mixture.
Serve with wedges of the zested lemon, tzatziki, pickle & a green salad.