Simple pleasures

Little green courgette


Baby courgettes with crisp, golden garlic

The wateriness of courgettes puts many people off. But that’s only if you cook them like a 1950s battle-axe of a boarding-house landlady. The key is to give them no more than a flash in the pan. A mere glimpse of searing heat, just enough to turn the slivers of garlic golden and crisp, and the courgettes, be they cubes or baby ones, will have bite and a juicy crunch to them.

For years we have usually done these with grated garlic, melted gently into the hot oil, almost like a confit, but the other day I left the heat on a little too high and saved the slivers just in time. Now, we do both, having in modern parlance ‘garlic two ways’ and it has lifted this from delicious to sublime. A few chilli flakes and some lemon zest lift this a little higher still, and looks as if you’ve made a little bit of an effort. Even though, as is often the case, simple, fresh ingredients treated well are all you need.

Be generous with the garlic, olive oil and seasoning here, courgettes do need a little help.

Baby courgettes, sliced lenegthwise. About 12-14 is enough for two people
A good helping of good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, one sliced very finely and one grated on a microplane
A generous pinch of Maldon salt
Some chilli flakes
Zest of half a lemon

Heat a sauté pan with the olive oil and add the slivers of garlic, cook on medium until turning golden then add the courgettes and the rest of the garlic. Season well and toss them around a bit on high heat until the green of the skin sets its colour vividly. Dress with the zest and chilli flakes to taste and check and adjust the seasoning. Serve straight away as an excellent side dish.

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