Stuffed Courgette Flowers
“This is a dish which could appear in a tragedy by Tennessee Williams or Garcia Lorca, never in one by Ibsen or Strindberg”
Recetas Inmorales, Manuel Vazquez Montalban
I always have trouble desecrating these beautiful flowers but the result is worth it. Montalban describes their fragility in sensuous terms likening them to a love affair with a complicated red-head. This lady, he continues speculatively, should wear a wide-brimmed hat and decorate her earlobes with these flowers so as to force her lover to pick them off with his mouth and eat them delicately. Courgette flowers, he states, have a subtle flavour which is so transitory that one scarcely even has time to capture the memory of it.
But that’s quite enough of that! How should they be cooked?
Small blooms make good canapés. Larger ones are good for lunch with ham and crusty bread; and they are also excellent with breaded veal (buy ready breaded and simply fry on both sides a couple of minutes first, leave to rest while you cook the courgette flowers) and serve with slices of lemon, and perhaps some roasted aubergine slices or a green salad.
As you cut into the flowers, they unburden themselves of their warm, honeyed, creamy sauce which moistens the breadcrumbed veal in the most fragrant way.
At the restaurant Lurra in London (Seymour Place) they stuff their courgette flowers with a brandade – a smooth emulsion of salt cod (bacalao) and olive oil. Coincidentally (or is it?) bacalao is the inspiration for another of Montalban’s immoral recipes. At Norma in Fitzrovia they serve courgette flowers stuffed with crab and chilli.
In Rome they stuff their zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovy – but personally I think the mozzarella is a bit too heavy and dense, and the anchovy a bit overpowering.
At one stage I used to make these using half ricotta and half Philadelphia cream cheese, but that mixture is in my view is also too stiff and heavy. Plus it’s fiddly to get it into the blooms. This is the best technique I’ve found to date.
Recipe for stuffed courgette flowers
for about four people with drinks
- 12 small or 8 large courgette flowers
- ½ cup ricotta
- 1 tsp honey – the bitterer the better – chestnut is good
- 1 fat clove of garlic ground with a tsp of salt – I used saffron and orange flavoured salt
- Several leaves of basil
- 1 beaten egg
- 2 tbsp plain flour with some freshly ground pepper
- Rapeseed oil to shallow fry
- a little more salt
- mix the ricotta with the honey, garlic and basil
- get the oil – about 1 cm/½” deep – in the frying pan nice and hot, nearly smoking
- get your beaten egg and your plain, seasoned flour lined up nearby
- stuff the first bloom with a couple of tablespoons of ricotta mixture
- dunk it into the egg, then the flour and fry
- do the same with each of the others
- turn the first one, and then the others – they will need a couple of minutes each side
- drain briefly on kitchen paper and serve