Zucchini, how I love it. There is nothing more delightfully buttery or charmingly versatile, or, for that matter, quite so easy to grow. Mine are bursting at the seams right now, pushing over the chook wire, and trying to run over the ground, fruiting in black and green stripes, with a pattern like 1960s barkcloth. Having just had a quarter of a year’s worth of rain in one weekend, they’re turning into marrows. And, as I am dead broke until the arrival of the Kevin Bucks, it’s time to get working on ways to use this luxurious, yet cheap, food.
Zucchini Muffins look so damned good the boy recanted his anti-zucchini stance and tucked in. They are also easy. Take a giant marrow or a few small ones and grate until you have 400 grammes worth. Then add: 1 cup white flour, 1 cup of polenta or some polenta and wholemeal, 1 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 lightly beaten egg and 60g of butter you’ve melted in the microwave. You can add flavourings such as a big handful of grated parmesan; a small handful of shredded herbs; six semi-sundried tomatoes sliced up; a big chunk of crumbled feta; ham, bacon, salami or smoked salmon in chunks; a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Or any combo. Mix it all together until it just comes together into a lumpy mess and put big spoonfuls, lumps and all, into a lightly greased muffin pan. Bake at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes in a shiny new electric fan-forced oven, if, like me, you have one (I truly love my oven), but any one will do.
But everyone knows about muffins. If you want to get people raising their eyebrows, cook Zucchini Loaf! I’ve made this for more than 20 years and it produces a smooth yet textured cake that keeps very well. Take three eggs and beat them with one cup of sunflower oil (a moulinex or bamix works best – this idea comes from a moulinex cookbook). Eventually the eggs and oil will thicken and go almost white, at which point you add 3 tsp vanilla extract and one cup of caster sugar.
Assemble the dry ingredients: 1 and one half cups white flour, 1 and one half cups wholemeal flour, 1 and one half teaspoons of baking powder, three teaspoons of mixed spice and a shake or two extra of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt. Then grate enough zucchini to fill two cups (pack it down hard and include the rind – it will look stunning) and add a cup of sultanas, walnuts or raisins.
Mix it all up and chuck it into two loaf tins. Bake at 160 for about 45 minutes to an hour. Eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, preferably with butter.
Stuffed Zucchinis are very good indeed. Slice a marrow lengthways and hollow it out so it looks like a boat (keep the pulp, but not the seeds). Then take about a cup of carbs, like cooked rice, lentils, barley or couscous. Add some flavourings, like sundried tomatoes, cheeses (especially feta), herbs, nuts, half a cup or so of cooked mince, salami or bacon (if that’s your thing), capsicum, cooked onion and bulk it out with the zucchini flesh, then loosely pack into the boat. Stick the whole shebang in a baking tray and add a good slosh of white wine, stock or even water. Cover and bake at about 180 for about 25 minutes, then remove the covering and brown it off. Cheese and parmesan on the top make a crispy crust.
And, finally, the best summer soup recipe EVAH! Especially if you’ve grown it yourself. This soup tastes like it is filled with cream, but has nothing of the sort in it. It comes from my friend Rachel, who has raised her three kids on little more than Centrelink payments and is extraordinarily good at budgeting, as well as cooking. (As she told me, at this time of year zucchini, tomatoes and even basil are cheap, so you can go to town on this one without going broke).
Rachel’s zucchini, tomato and basil soup (utterly vegan)
2 sticks of celery, sliced fine
2 carrots, chopped fine
1 kilo zucchini, sliced
1 kilo tomato, diced
1 litre of water
1 bunch of basil
1 tsp sugar, 1 good pinch of salt
Pour a good whack of olive oil into the bottom of a big saucepan and fry the celery, carrots and onion gently, with the lid on. Then add the zucchini, tomato, and fry gently, again with the lid on. Add 1 litre of water. Cook for about 20 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Turn the heat off, take a bunch of basil and rip all the leaves off it. Cover the soup with the basil leaves. Then you can either get our your food wand and puree the lot, or tip it into a food processor and hit the high notes. Warm it gently again before serving, just to bring out the fragrance in the basil (though you can eat it cold). You will end up with a lovely orangey khaki blend, that tastes like summer. It is especially good for kids, because it’s all vegetable but they don’t suspect a thing. It can be turned into pasta sauce, eaten with rice, served gloopy for a substantial meal or watered down to a more refined soup.
I don’t have a picture, because it’s not always possible to photograph heaven.