I go through phases of cooking one vegetable over and over again in different ways.

My current obsession is courgettes. Every gardener knows that if left to grow they turn into marrows and can be watery. But courgettes (or zucchini as American and Italians call them), are cheap, healthy and fresh-tasting. At West Hampstead Farmer’s Market I found courgette flowers: not cheap mind, four for £2.50. I stuffed them with goat’s cheese and served them on fresh black pasta.

This is a high-end dinner party dish that looks spectacular. If possible get the male flowers which are bigger. The female flowers have a phallic courgette attached. Open the flower up before stuffing as you may find the odd insect lurking within.

Islington Gazette: Stuffed courgette with Iranian green riceStuffed courgette with Iranian green rice (Image: Kerstin)

Courgettes stuffed with Iranian green rice (serves 6)

I used a steamer to cook the rice. In Iran they cook it long and slow so that it forms a crust.

3 courgettes, cut into thirds, cored.
3 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
150 g basmati rice, steamed with a little sea salt in the water
300g broad beans, double podded (can be frozen)
300g frozen peas (optional)
bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper
50 g butter


Prep the courgettes, steam the rice, double pod the broad beans etc so everything is ready. Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan. Soften the shallots, then add the garlic. Add the cooked rice, the dill, broad beans, peas, salt, pepper. Stir and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add a big knob of butter. Using a shallow baking dish, stuff the courgettes using a teaspoon. Scatter the rest of the rice around the dish and bake for 30 minutes at 180C.

Romanian soup with stuffed courgettes (Ciorba) (serves 4)

Islington Gazette: Stuffed courgettes in Romanian soupStuffed courgettes in Romanian soup (Image: Kerstin)

4 courgettes, cut into 5cm chunks and hollowed out (I used an apple corer), reserve insides for stuffing
300 g smoked quinoa or rice, I used Hodmedods or any quinoa
600 ml water
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
50 g butter
250 g button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 glass white wine, optional
2 preserved lemons, pips removed, finely chopped
For the broth
1 tbsp tomato puree
6 cherry tomatoes, finely sliced
1 tsp sea salt
To serve:
100 ml Greek yoghurt
bunch fresh mint leaves to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180C. Add the quinoa, water and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until cooked and fluffy. The water should be absorbed (if not then drain).

In a frying pan, heat the butter and oil and add the mushrooms and garlic and fry until light golden. Add the leftover courgette interiors, preserved lemon and white wine. Then stir in the cooked quinoa. Stuff the courgettes with the mixture, packing it in fairly tightly. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add all the ingredients for the broth and simmer. Pour the broth into a medium oven dish. Place the stuffed courgettes in the broth and cover the dish with foil. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the courgettes are cooked but not mushy.
Serve 3 pieces of courgette for each person with a generous ladle of broth. Add dollops of yoghurt and a few mint leaves.

Islington Gazette: Courgette flowers on black pasta made with ingredients from West Hampstead farmers marketCourgette flowers on black pasta made with ingredients from West Hampstead farmers market (Image: Kerstin)

Courgette flowers stuffed with goat cheese on black pasta (serves 4)


8 courgette flowers
100g goat's cheese
Olive oil
salt and pepper
400 g fresh black pasta, cooked in salted water


Prise open each courgette flower to see if you have any 'visitors'. Add a large teaspoon of goat's cheese into each flower and twist the end of the flower closed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat up olive oil in a wide frying pan.

Carefully add the pasta flowers (you may have to do this in two batches) to the pan and fry gently. Turning over once it's slightly golden and frying the other side. Cook the fresh pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Once the pasta floats, it's cooked. Then drain. Add olive oil. Heap the pasta into a bowl and top with the courgette flowers, 2 per person.

Tarragon courgettes


3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 courgettes, sliced
Bunch tarragon, strip the leaves from the stalk
Glass white wine
Salt and pepper


Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan, add the garlic and courgettes. Stir while cooking until soft.
Add the tarragon and stir. Add the white wine and seasoning. Serve hot.