This is the time of year when we get a glut of courgettes and others in the squash family; when if you are a home grower you swear to plant fewer next year and, as a commercial grower, you have to find ways of getting rid of them other than compost. Sonia says the organic courgettes in the Coleshill garden need picking every two days at this time of year; otherwise they become too big and unpopular.

It’s true they grow incredibly fast. I once kept my eye a couple of small courgettes—a green and a creamy striped variety—in the garden over a three-day period, and both grew from about 7cm (150g) to a whopping 16cm and nearly 600g! Almost the size of a decent marrow.

But they aren’t marrows either. True marrows have thicker skins and firmer flesh. Whatever you call them, courgettes of this size are perfect for stuffing.

I have been experimenting with various stuffing ingredients and I think almost any vegetables that are growing right now work well, so think peppers, aubergines, beans, chard, fennel and, of course, tomatoes. You need something to bind the filling together, and breadcrumbs or cooked rice or barley are all great. This version has mushrooms in it, too.

Finally, the recipe needs a fresh herb and basil, parsley, tarragon, thyme, rosemary will all do well. You can, of course, put meat in the stuffing instead of the breadcrumbs or rice, such as veal or pork or lamb mince (I wouldn’t use beef). But I think the vegetable version has a richness and yet delicacy which is just about perfect.

Organic courgettes at Coleshill Organics

A final note: just as any seasonal vegetable will do for the stuffing, you can use this recipe to stuff different vegetables when the courgettes are finished. Think squash, peppers, big fat tomatoes, aubergines …

The Recipe — Stuffed Organic Courgettes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg courgettes
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely sliced
  • 100g mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 300g ripe, sweet tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2tbs tomato paste
  • 1 small bunch basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly picked thyme leaves, chopped
  • 4 slices of good bread chopped into crumbs, crusts and all.
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 20g pine nuts or hazelnuts or walnuts, chopped fine
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper

METHOD

Set the oven to 180C/Gas mark 4.

Cut the courgette carefully in half down its length. Using a spoon and holding the courgette firmly in one hand, scrape out the seeds and some of the flesh, leaving a neat, deep valley to put the filling in. Brush the halves with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and bake for 25 minutes or until just beginning to be a little less crunchy in texture.

Meanwhile, in a little olive oil, sweat the onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms for 20 minutes or so or until they are sweet and soft. Add the tomatoes, paste and basil and simmer for another 25 minutes, stirring well. Transfer to a bowl and add half the bread crumbs and mix well

Mix well together with the remaining breadcrumbs, thyme, parmesan and chopped nuts along with a splash of olive oil.

Take the courgette halves out of the oven, spoon the tomato filling* into them, cover with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is just browned.

* If you have any tomato mixture left over, combine it with a couple of eggs and make a frittata.

Barny Haughton is a chef, restaurateur, cookery school teacher and Eco Food pioneer. He has run three award-winning restaurants in Bristol over the last 25 years (Rocinantes, Quartier Vert and Bordeaux Quay).

Barny is best known for his work at Square Food Foundation, Bristol’s Cookery School & Community Kitchen, where he is Director and Head Teacher, teaching people from all walks of life to cook good food.

Barny Haughton