I love to seeing the striking yellow flowers of summer squashes, both for the celebration of the season and also to turn into yummy dishes. Sometimes I simply dust them in flower to make into quick and easy fritters, or stir them into a courgette risotto or through pasta. When I am feeling more adventurous or if have friends over for an alfresco supper, I like to go the whole hog and stuff these little beauties, dip them in batter and deep-fry them so the gooey cheesy centres starts to ooze. Here they are served with a herby dip of fresh mint and ground pistachio nuts making a lovely summer starter or light lunch dish.
You can use either the male flowers that have no fruit, just a stalk, or the female flowers if they have small mini courgettes attached.
Stuffed courgette flowers with mint and pistachio salsa
12 courgette flowers
150 g fresh ricotta
40 g freshly grated Pecorino
1 tsp of grated lemon zest and juice
2 eggs, separated
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
175 ml sparkling mineral water
125 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
50 g pistachio nuts
1 bunch fresh mint leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 spring onions, chopped
125 ml extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
vegetable oil, for deep frying
Preheat the oven to 180c. Start by making the salsa. Whiz the nuts, herbs, garlic and spring onions in a food processor until coarsely ground. Add the oil and puree until fairly smooth, stir in the vinegar and season to taste.
Carefully open the courgette flowers and pick out the stamen. In a bowl mix together the ricotta, pecorino, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper. Carefully spoon the filling into the courgette flowers and twist the tops together to enclose filling.
Make the batter. In a bowl beat together the egg yolks, oil, water, flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff and fold into the batter.
Heat 5 cm vegetable oil in a wok or deep saucepan until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a cube of bread crisp in 20 seconds). Carefully dip the flowers (and courgettes, if female) into the hot oil and deep-fry in batches of 2 for 3 minutes, turning half way through until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven while cooking the rest. Transfer the courgette flowers to plates and serve with the salsa.
Tip: don’t be fearful of deep-frying, if you follow the method it is easy. Investing in a sugar thermometer is a good way to ensure a crisp and light batter, they are available from all good cookware stores.