If I have been quiet lately it’s only because every time I try to talk it sort of comes out as “lksjdflkjsdkfjjjjjblaaaaarg,” on account of the fact that I saw Neil Young and Leonard Cohen in concert within five days of each other. These two musicians have been such an important part of the soundtrack of my life, so to see them live? People, it was intense. I was pit spitting distance from Neil Young, due to some assertive and judicious manhandling of myself to the front of the audience. I barely sang along, I didn’t shriek, I just stood there, transfixed during his set. My obscenely expensive Leonard Cohen ticket yielded – mercifully – a very decent seat, and I actually cried when he sang “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” and “So Long Marianne.” But every time I tried to properly describe the concerts to someone, I simply couldn’t form coherent sentences. I couldn’t describe it. For someone as, you know, excessive with words as I am, this is something. Even now I’m just talking around it, so my basic summary is: they were both sublime. I can’t believe that I managed to see Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young within the space of a year, in New Zealand of all places.
So courgettes are incredibly cheap at the markets right now, and they’re not only cheap, they’re big, substantially cucumber-esque in size. So over the last week or so they have been featuring heavily in what Tim and I have been eating.
Firstly, in the form of a George Forman-ed dinner (we received a grill from Tim’s parents for Christmas and have already used it a ridiculous amount), where I discovered the joy of tiger-striped grilled vegetables. Seriously, all you do is slice up the courgettes, slam them in the grill for a bit, and they’re done. No dishes, no fat, but those glorious stripes…To go with we had grilled chicken, that I’d dusted with ras-el-hanout spice mix, some wild rice, roasted capsicum, and a kind of salad – more of a sprinkle than a salad though – of kalamata olives, feta cheese, and chopped preserved lemon, from a stash that had been kindly made for me by my godmother. I’d never tried preserved lemon before but I’m quite addicted – they belong to that same sharp, salty taste family as capers and olives but with an intense, salty lemon hit that’s pretty exhilarating when paired with the quieter tastes of chicken and courgette.
Courgette risotto was the next night’s dinner, nothing revolutionary in the mix here – just garlic, arborio rice (I can’t afford anything more authentically Italian-sounding than that), vermouth, diced courgettes, vegetable stock. It has been a while since I’ve made a risotto and I forgot how long they take but I don’t mind the constant stirring, and the finished result was rich and toothsome. With more grilled courgettes on the side, because they look so profesh.
Obviously you can’t move at cafes these days without bumping into corn fritters, but I think there’s a good case for the courgette version being the superior of the two be-frittered vegetables. I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s seasonally appropriate (for me in New Zealand, anyway) Forever Summer and decided to make them after discovering that I actually had all the ingredients. Once you’ve got all the boring grating out of the way these are pretty straightforward, and so delicious, knocking the beyond-ubiquitous corn fritter into a cocked hat.
Approx 750g courgettes
3-4 spring onions, finely chopped
250g feta cheese
handful each of fresh parsley and mint, chopped
1 T dried mint
140g plain flour
Grate the courgettes. This is annoying, I grant you. Also somewhat annoying is that you then have to put the grated shreds of courgette onto a clean teatowel and let them sit, so the towel can absorb excess (and there is indeed excess) courgette liquid. It’s not like it’s difficult, but you will end up with a green, damp teatowel, and no matter how hard you shake it over a bowl, some flecks of courgette will remain stuck to the towel fibres. Anyway, put the spring onions, crumbled feta (and you should probably know that I left out the onions and used about half that amount of feta because that’s what I had) and herbs into a bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients till combined. Heat a little oil in a frying pan (although I didn’t use any because I have a good nonstick pan) and drop heaped spoonfuls of the raggedy green batter into it, flattening with the back of a spoon as you go. Cook for about 2 minutes a side, I find those silicone spatulas really useful for turning them over. As these are lovely room temperature, don’t fret unduly about getting them to the table now.
Nigella recommends lime wedges to squeeze over. To which I say, go right ahead, if you don’t mind paying $19 per piece of dry, unjuicy fruit or whatever it is they’re charging for whatever is masquerading as the humble lime these days.
Full time work is keeping me busy, and it was in a flurry of excitement that I received my first ever business cars last week. I don’t know if it means I’m institutionalised or what, but it was so exciting seeing my name on the index card.
I’m hugely tired and I have – naturally -work tomorrow so here endeth my song. Next time: well, I bought a huge watermelon at the markets on the weekend and eagerly turned it into slushy, rose-pink sorbet, so that may well feature.