Stuffed Courgette Blossoms with Courgette, Pine Nuts, Lemon and Parma Ham Tagliatelle:
“Goose rillette … oh my God they have goose rillette” shouts a man – wearing red Crocs and an over-sized African beaded necklace – in astonishment he digs a cream cracker into a sample dish of imported French goose rillette. “Oh my God… um… I’ll have …um… a 100grams”. “Where did you get the wine?” shouts a man, across from where I am standing, forcing me to stop starring at the goose-rillette-eating-man.
This is the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill. For those of you who have been living in the Amazon Jungle for the past five years or somewhere equally sheltered from civilisation, the market is situated amongst the hullabaloo of Woodstock, and offers a range of delicious food products. The standard of the stalls is delightfully high – suffice to say there is no ‘coconut ice’, candy floss or toffee apples, and if there are an unusual touch has been added. All the produce is freshly prepared with the utmost care resulting in a wonderfully refreshing atmosphere compared to that of many restaurants and their ‘ready-made-meals’ policy.
It is a wonderful place to go for breakfast, lunch or both and offers wine by the glass, artisan beers and refreshing cocktails. This marvelous idea enables people to roam around the market sipping on ice-cold Sauvignon Blanc while tasting samples from each stall – adding to the festive atmosphere and overall appreciation of food.
Besides all the freebies masquerading as samples, there are lots of stalls offering proper meals, Tuna steak burgers, Malay curry’s and an array of roasted vegetable salads and honey glazed sausages. The fare can be eaten and enjoyed along communal tables comprised of old doors acting as table tops which rest on vegetable crates.
The Market is not new to me, however I always end up finding something wonderfully exciting. If it’s not Jerusalem artichokes then it’s truffles. This time I was so happy to find courgette blossoms – I simply adore them, so much so that I even dream about them. I tasted them for the first time at the restaurant Baa Baa Black Sheep in Riebeek Kasteel and it was love at first sight. However, it was a love affair (like so many before it) that was hindered by an obstacle: where would I find courgette blossoms? After a week of searching it was becoming quite apparent that my love and I were not to be reunited again – the love affair between me and courgette blossoms seemed destined to be apart…until I went to the Neighbourhood Goods Market.
As I walked in, right in front of me, in a shabby crate, lay my courgette blossoms. I almost wet my pants with excitement, I had found my courgette blossoms. As a dog walks past me and a little girl runs to her mom excited by a delicate petit four that rests in her equally delicate hand, I hear the goose-rillette-eating-man say “oysters and champagne, oh my God what will be next”. Walking back to my car with my courgette blossoms (secured in in a packet) and wondering how I should cook them, I could not help but be reminded of the Lewis Carroll poem: The Walrus and the Carpenter.
Usually courgette blossoms are deep-fried and served as a starter, but since mine took a little work to obtain I thought they warranted a bit more attention and stature . I decided that I wanted to make a whole meal out of them. I thought it would be nice to serve deep-fried stuffed courgette blossoms on top of a courgette and Parma ham pasta – I liked the idea of the crispy courgette blossoms contrasting with the silky, creamy pasta. If you want, you can just make the stuffed courgette blossoms as a starter. Also, the flowers deep-fried without a stuffing are divine too.
250ml soda water
3/4 cup self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Filling/Stuffing for the Courgette Blossoms: (for 8-10 courgette blossoms).
¾ cup of ricotta
½ grated Parmesan
tsp lemon zest
1 egg yolk
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 tsp chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste (about half a tsp of each)
1/2 packet of tagliatelle ( good quality – I like to use Divella or Riscossa)
tablespoon olive oil
½ red onion cut into half-moons
5 courgettes cut into small cubes
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
½ cup of chicken stock/ vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
2 tsp lemon zest
½ cup of frozen petit pois
2 tablespoon roasted pine nuts (optional),
Handful of basil (torn roughly), plus extra for garnishing
salt and pepper (to taste)
Parmesan to serve
Courgette Blossom filling/Stuffing:
In a medium-sized bowl combine all the filling ingredients. Taste the filling and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Prepare the courgette blossoms for stuffing:
Keep the blossoms attached to the courgettes and rinse the flowers under a tap. Make sure you rinse inside the flowers. After rinsing the flowers, remove their stamens. The stamens should come out easily by simply picking them out of the blossoms. Once all the stamens are removed, carefully split the courgettes that are attached to the blossoms half way up into four strips making sure they still remain attached to the blossoms. This is a little tricky, so take your time and use a very sharp pairing knife. If some of the blossoms break off their courgettes don’t discard them as they can still be stuffed or even just deep-fried as they are. Once the courgettes and their blossoms are prepared begin to stuff them.
To stuff the courgette blossoms, take some of the ricotta filling and roll it into a small ball roughly the size of a litchi, or a large cherry. Carefully open a courgette blossom and insert the ricotta ball. To close the blossom twist the ends of the blossom together. Continue until all the courgette blossoms have been stuffed. If you want you can leave some blossoms un-stuffed – the blossoms are still very delicious simply battered and deep-fried.
Prepare the Batter: (the batter can be made 20-30mins before frying)
Place the flour into a medium-sized bowl, add salt and pepper and pour in the soda water and whisk till the mixture is smooth. The mixture should be the same consistency as pancake batter. If it is too thin add more flour and if it is too thick add more soda water.
In a large pasta pot place a tablespoon of salt and fill with water and bring to the boil. Add the tagliatelle. Stir the pasta every now and then to make sure the pasta does not stick. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until al dente . Drain and add half a tablespoon of olive oil to the pasta to ensure the pasta does not stick.
For the Sauce:
While the pasta is cooking, begin to cook your onions. In a large, heavy-based pan place the butter, olive oil and onions. Fry on a a medium to low heat for 5 minutes, then add the chopped garlic and chopped courgettes. Fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and cook on a high heat for 3 minutes. Add the cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Taste, and add salt and pepper. Cook on a high heat for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the frozen peas, roasted pine nuts and torn basil leaves. Stir, taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Keep the sauce on a very gentle heat and begin to deep-fry your courgette blossoms.
Deep-fry the Courgette Blossoms:
While the pasta sauce is cooking. In a deep pot, place enough canola oil (or vegetable oil) to reach above half way and begin to heat the oil on a high heat. While the oil is heating, dip your courgette blossoms into the per-prepaired batter. Check the oil is hotter enough by dropping a small bit of batter into the oil – if it sizzles and browns quickly the oil is ready. Fry 3 to 4 courgette blossoms at a time. Make sure to place the deep-fried courgette blossoms on some Carlton Towel to drain off the excess oil.
Assemble the Dish:
Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta. Garnish with the deep-fried courgette blossoms, pieces of Parma ham, more basil leaves and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a few roasted pine nuts and some more lemon zest (if you have some extra lying around).