Anyone who has ever grown courgettes knows that they have a tendency to go berserk, and grow like topsy, especially at this time of the year. One minute, you have a small number of elegant, sunny yellow flowers, the next you’re inundated with a whole host of green veg. And what’s worse, leave them in the ground too long, and they balloon into marrows, which are wet and seedy and hopeless for most dishes. Even my little potted tray of courgettes is beginning to overwhelm. After several rounds of ratatouille and a courgette salad or two, I find myself deliberately averting my gaze from the veg drawer when I open the fridge, as if not looking them in the eye will resolve the problem. So what to do with that glut of courgettes?
Vegetable cakes are nothing new. Everyone knows the good old carrot cake: it’s a favourite, a fail safe, but it doesn’t have to be the only option. There are all sorts of other veg you can grate into a cake to give it body, texture and flavour.
Beetroots go well with chocolate, their earthiness combining well with the smooth bittersweet flavour of the chocolate in a brownie, producing the darkest of garnet-coloured cakes. Parsnips are sweeter even than carrots, and demand honey and spice. But courgettes are perhaps the most versatile of the cake-base veg: they bring less of their own flavour so are a good palette for many other pairings.
Generously grated into a cake mixture, they can confidently carry lemons and oranges, or any spice combination you can think of, even white chocolate. They cry out for drizzles or cream cheese icings, spread thickly across the top of the cake. Nuts add texture: here I’ve used walnuts which work well with the spicing, and pistachios would also be lovely, and further speckle the cake with green, but pecans and hazelnuts, if that’s what you have lurking in the cupboard, would work a treat too. The courgette ensures the cake is tender and moist – just make sure you squeeze the courgette out thoroughly before baking to prevent a soggy sponge.
Makes: 8-10 loaf slices
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 1 hour 20 minutes
150g plain self-raising flour
100g wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
125g light brown sugar
125ml vegetable oil
300g courgette, grated
100g walnuts, chopped
1 tsp salt
100g cream cheese
3 tablespoons lemon curd
1. Preheat an oven to 180°C and line a two pound loaf tin with baking paper.
2. Grate the courgettes, place in a clean tea towel and wring out any excess water.
3. Stir together both flours, the baking powder, all the spices and the light brown sugar.
4. In a jug, whisk together the eggs and vegetable oil until combined and then stir these through the dry ingredients.
5. Add the grated courgette, stirring to evenly distribute and, finally, mix in the walnuts.
5. Place in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes; it is ready if, when pressed gently with a finger, the sponge springs back. Leave to cool in the tin.
7. Once cool, remove from the loaf tin. Make the icing by stirring together the lemon curd and cream cheese until smooth, and spread over the cooled cake.