Like most weekends, I visited the Oranjezicht Farmer's Market in Granger Bay this past Saturday. Normally I just bag a few essentials - carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and other pedestrian vegetables. This week, however, I splurged on some fresh zucchini blossoms to try my hand at a Stuffed Courgette Flowers recipe.
Reader, heed my warning: it did not go to plan.
If you have read any one of the cooking blogs I've written, you might have picked up that my cooking style is pretty loose in the joints. Occasionally, this approach breeds fearful levels of chaos, but I like it that way. Like, I'll glance at the recipe list, forget half the steps, improvise them on the fly, and produce a delicious meal that I had fun making.
I fear that too many cooking blogs are worried about producing a perfectly uniform result that their readers can faithfully recreate at home. I'm not trying to teach you how to cook perfectly. I'm just documenting my own culinary experiments and hoping to share the enjoyment that I get out of cooking with you all.
(Psst - before we get into the recipe, you can read my article about my beloved Oranjezicht City Farmer's Market in the Spring issue of Life & Style magazine. There's a killer photo of me salivating over some tomatoes in there.)
With that in mind, let's embark on my latest attempt at an Italian classic. Like I said, it did not go to plan. But it was fun, and it was delicious. What more can you ask of cooking?
What you'll need
fresh courgette flowers
tub of creamed cottage cheese
fresh herbs - I used dill and sorrel leaves
flaky sea salt
neutral cooking oil
A note on the filling
Listen. I made this recipe up from scratch. You can put whatever the hell you want in your filling. The only real essential is the creamed cottage cheese, and even that you could swap out for cream cheese or ricotta.
Here's what I look for in a creamy filling: an assault on the tastebuds. I mean it. I want my face to pucker. I like to balance out that rich creaminess with salty, earthy, zingy flavours. Hence, the fresh chilli, lime, and anchovies. If the thought of salted fish makes you gag, omit it, babes. You could make this filling with cottage cheese and Sriracha if that's your vibe.
A note on the batter
I'm a sucker for beer-battered anything. Egg batters are better for binding, it's true, but they're such a hack to make and your entire kitchen resembles a poorly made omelette after you're done coating everything. Beer batter is a game-changer. Two ingredients, 100% satisfaction.
How to make stuffed courgette flowers
Step One: Prep your kak
I took my own advice for once and set up my meez before I started cooking. Lo and behold, it made a world of difference. Here is a picture for you:
During your prep phase, you'll also want to do things like:
remove the stamens from your courgette flowers
bring a heavy-bottomed pan filled to about 2cm with oil to medium heat
Step Two: Make your filling
This is the easy part! Simply chop up your anchovies, chillies, and fresh herbs (or whatever you've decided to flavour your filling with). Chuck them in with the creamed cottage cheese, some salt, and a generous squeeze of lime. Mix it up, baby.
Step Three: "Fill" your courgette flowers
Ah. Now, see, this is where I ran into trouble. I ignored the myriad warnings posted on other recipe blogs that this part would be tricky without a piping bag. "A piping bag?!" I scoffed. "I don't have time for that. I have prematurely heated my pan, and if I don't get these bad boys battered and fried soon, I'm going to burn the oil."
If you have more patience than I do, then you can fill the blossoms with your filling using a piping bag, a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off, or (allegedly) a spoon. I tried it with a spoon. It did not work.
So, I landed up frying the blossoms tempura-style and serving them with the filling plopped on top. You know what? They were delicious. I would do it again.
Step Four: Prepare your batter
At this point, your oil should be ready for frying. You can check by sticking the thin end of a wooden spoon in the oil. If it bubbles around the wood, then you're good to go.
The batter is the easiest thing in the world. Seriously. You take about 3/4 cup of flour and add your beer of choice to it in a shallow dish and mix until it reaches the consistency of pancake batter. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can sieve the flour beforehand to eliminate lumps.
On the beer: my favourite beer in the whole world is the Devil's Peak Juicy Lucy Hazy IPA. It's loose and fruity, just like me! This hazy IPA is heavy on the hops, which gives it its distinct, intense citrus kick. I love, love, love the beer, and I love, love, love the packaging. I'm a Juicy Lucy girl forever!
I do think that the kind of beer you use will flavour your batter quite heavily, so bear that in mind. The citrus kick from the Juicy Lucy was the perfect complement to my zingy, salty, earthy filling.
Step Five: Batter your courgette flowers
Easy peasy. Just coat 'em nicely. Get a good assembly line going so that you can batch-fry your blossoms without making a very stressful mess out of it.
Step Six: Fry 'em up!
Fry on each side until golden brown. Don't crowd the pan - give everyone room to breathe. Keep in mind that the temperature of the oil is going to decrease as you add room-temp ingredients to it, so later batches are probably going to require a little more time to fry than the first ones.
Step Seven: Eat them hot!
So, my zucchini blossoms were not stuffed. But, they were really, really delicious. I enjoyed them hot out of the pan with the leftover Juicy Lucy beer I had in the can. An exceptional springtime lunch.
Not every recipe goes well. But, I'm living proof that that shouldn't stop you from having fun in the kitchen and cooking to your tastes. If all else fails, take this away: anything fried in batter and served with a cold beer is delicious. Including courgette flowers!