I wasn't lucky with my own zucchini plants this year either. They have all been slaughtered by blasted slugs, who have eaten most of my seedlets including those which are supposed to serve as a deterrent for the slugs. It's almost a joke, but they enjoy sleeping in the containers where I grow garlic, so much for the popular advice to plant the garlic among your veg to prevent the slugs and snails from feasting on your plants. But back to my zucchini story. Last week we went to visit the Cogges Manor farm, where I admired the neat rows of courgettes and marrows with lots of bright yellow blooms. I was very tempted to ask at the counter if they would sell some flowers to me, as they do sell the garden produce.
Then last Friday, we went to the big farm which is known locally for its pick your own. Our planned pickings were blackberries, raspberries and plums. But as we were picking the berries, my niece said: "Galia, look at those flowers!", and just behind the blackberry rows there was a huge field with hundreds and thousands of courgettes and marrows, most of them in the state of decomposition. Clearly nobody bothered to pick them. Such a waste of food. Why couldn't they offer these vegetables to the food banks, or as the feed for farm animals?! Anyway, there were lots of blooms, which I picked up. I was thrilled with my find.
It would have been better if I cooked the blooms on the same day I picked them, when they were very fresh, but I didn't have any sparkling water for the batter, so I made a batch of stuffed flowers the next day. The flowers have shrank in size and didn't look as pretty, but they tasted amazing.
Stuffed courgette flowers (20+)
for the batter:
100ml self-raising flour
a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt (optional, you can add the salt later, sprinkle over the deep-fried fowers)
1 medium egg
200ml sparkling water
Zucchini flowers (around 20)
for the stuffing:
a mix of ricotta and goat's cheese (I used a tub of 250ml ricotta and a small tub of soft goat's cheese 150ml, and had about 1/3 mix left)
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2tsp dried mint
sea salt with pepper
oil for frying (I used half a small bottle of rapeseed oil, but sunflower oil will be fine as well)
Mix the ricotta and goat's cheese in a medium bowl, with the herbs and lemon zest, season well. Remove the stamens from inside the flowers, open them carefully and just twist the stamen away. Stuff each flower with about 1/2 to 1 tsp of ricotta mix, depending on the size of the flowers. Keep the baby zucchini attached to the blooms. Twist the flower top a bit, to seal the stuffing inside, but don't worry overmuch if the stuffing is showing a bit.
Prepare the batter by beating together the flour with the egg, soda and salt (if using). Pour the sparkling water, a bit at a time, and keep mixing until you get a batter of smooth consistency, like thick cream.
Add the oil to a deep pan or wok (or use a deep-fryer if you have one, I don't, so I used a deep frying pan).
Once the oil is very hot, dip the stuffed flowers in the batter and carefully put in the oil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, then turn the flowers over and cook on the other side as well. The recipes I have seen online mention cooking each flower for 2 minutes on each side, but after 2 minutes the zucchini itself was still uncooked, and the batter wasn't golden brown enough, so I cooked them for longer than that.
Cook them in batches of 4-5 at a time, so as not to overcrowd the pan. Remove the cooked flowers onto a big plate with a kitchen towel, to remove the excess of oil.
Serve hot, sprinkle with more salt if you like or with tomato salsa.
It was a bit time-consuming to stuff the flowers and then deep-fry in oil, but totally worth it. We all loved the result, and if I happen to come across more zucchini flowers for sale, I will be definitely cooking them again.
Adding my recipe to 3 blog challenges for August: Cooking with Herbs on Karen's Lavender and Lovage (flowers being this month's linky); Vegetable Palette on Allotment 2 Kitchen (yellow colour for August) and Shop Local at Elizabeth's Kitchen.