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For the Love... Of Courgettes

I have two cracking recipes for you today: one savoury, one sweet. The savoury pancakes take less than five minutes to prepare, five minutes to cook, and are great at this time of year with any green salad you can rustle up. The lemon and ginger cake with lemon-vanilla frosting is moist and lemony and so more-ish you might be sorry you made it. These recipes have one crucial ingredient in common – the humble courgette. Courgettes are a versatile but criminally underrated vegetable, and are the unsung hero of each of these creations given their total lack of showiness. They provide texture to the pancakes and moisture to the cake. And in all honesty, if you weren’t told it was the key ingredient you probably wouldn’t even guess, making both great contenders in the ‘Guess What’s In It!’ game around the dinner table.

The batter for the pancakes is made from chickpea flour (also known as gram flour – which you can find in Asian food stores, health food shops and most supermarkets) and any unsweetened plant milk (I use soya milk). The recipe can be adapted in a multitude of ways, so once you have the batter mastered you can experiment by adding any herbs, spices or vegetables that take your fancy. If you don't have a courgette to hand, try using grated carrot, sweet potato or swede. Indeed, you could try using different types of flour as well. Here in Lisle we have a local producer of green lentil flour, which works a treat in place of gram flour. I recently made a spring onion, sun-dried tomato and rosemary version, which was pretty darn good, but the curried pancake is a winner. The batter itself takes only five minutes to prepare, but since we need to fry off the spices with the onion for this version, allow an extra ten minutes. I use a nutrient blender (hands down my favourite piece of kitchen equipment) to get the batter really smooth with minimum effort, but you can certainly mix the ingredients by hand. You can also grate the courgette by hand, but I take the easy option and use the fine grating attachment of my food processor.

So without further ado, you'll need:

 

Dash of sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp curry powder

½ cup / 100ml soya milk

½ cup / 65g chickpea (gram) flour

⅛ cup / 10g nutritional yeast (optional)

½ level tsp garlic powder (or one clove of garlic peeled)

¼ level tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

Good crack of pepper

1 courgette peeled (peeling is optional) and grated

Sunflower oil for frying

  1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the onion.  Fry on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes before stirring in the curry powder.  Continue to fry for a further 5-7 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Place the soya milk, gram flour, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and pepper in a food processor or nutrient blender and blitz until smooth.
  3. Using your hands, squeeze as much water as you can out of the grated courgette.  You need 100g courgette after squeezing.  
  4. Stir the grated courgette and fried onions into the batter until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Heat the sunflower oil in a non-stick pan (enough to cover the base of the pan) and when hot carefully add 2-3 dessert spoons of the batter to one side of the pan.  If you have space in the pan, make another one or two pancakes.  Flip the pancakes when bubbles appear on top of the batter and the edges begin to brown.
  6. Transfer the pancakes to a plate with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

A few hints and tips… If you are using a nutrient blender put the liquid into the cup first and then add the dry ingredients. When you turn the cup upside down to slot it into the blender the flour is less likely to stick to the bottom of the cup. Rinse the cup or food processor bowl as soon as you are finished as gram flour can be quite hard to get off if the mixture is left to dry out. This recipe uses only a pinch of salt because curry powder already contains quite a lot of salt. If you decide to try a non-curried version you might want to add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the batter. Be careful to use exactly ¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. We need the soda to make the pancake light and fluffy, but the taste of bicarbonate of soda can ruin a dish if too much is added. Finally, if you add a little more soya milk for a runnier batter you end up with something that looks very like an omelette (see photo below!).

And now to dessert. The zinginess of the lemon and ginger cake comes from lemon zest, a little lemon juice and – a fabulous ingredient if you can source it – lemon-infused Donegal rapeseed oil. After arriving in France and unpacking all my kitchenware I sadly realised that I had forgotten to accidentally-on-purpose take my mum’s zester with me. But I soon discovered that using a knife with a fine serrated edge (ideally a steak knife – ideally not for steak :-p) to carefully peel and chop the zest is probably the most efficient way of doing it. I avoid using a grater as I find it’s hard to get the zest without also getting the pith, which will give your cake a bitter, unpleasant taste. Besides, so much of the zest gets clogged in the grater that it’s a bit of a waste and a pain to wash.

If you’re not a fan of ginger, ground cardamom is a great substitute – or leave out the spice altogether. As with the pancakes, you need to squeeze out as much water as you can from the grated courgette. This is to avoid having the cake become too dense or stodgy. I bought a bulk container of the lemon-infused rapeseed oil, but if you find that it’s too pricey in smaller quantities you can substitute with sunflower oil, or use a smaller amount of lemon rapeseed oil and top up with another oil. The frosting can be made ahead of time and keeps for up to a week in an airtight container.

Lemon & Ginger Cake

220g plain or wholemeal flour

1¼ level tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger (or ground cardamom if you prefer)

120g brown sugar

Zest of one lemon (unwaxed if possible), finely chopped

2 courgettes, peeled and grated (you need 150g after the water is squeezed out)

½ cup / 100ml lemon-infused rapeseed oil (or a neutral flavoured oil)

Juice of half a lemon topped up with enough warm water to fill one cup (200ml in total)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting

100g cashew nuts, soaked in water for at least one hour

¼ cup / 50ml soya milk or almond milk

2 tbsp / 30ml agave nectar (use maple syrup or 2 tbsp icing sugar if you don’t have agave)

Juice of half a lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

60g coconut oil, melted

  1. Line a baking tin with baking parchment so that the paper comes up the sides of the tin.  The paper will stop the frosting from spilling out of the tin before it sets. I used a 20cm spring-form round tin with a loose base.  Any other shaped tin is fine, just try to use one that is a similar size.
  2. Sift together the flour, soda, salt and ginger.  Add the sugar and lemon zest and stir well.
  3. Use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can from the grated courgette.  After removing the water you need 150g of courgette.
  4. Place the squeezed courgette in a bowl and combine with the oil, water (with lemon juice), vinegar and vanilla extract. 
  5. Combine the wet ingredients and dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is incorporated.  
  6. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for one hour at 180°C.
  7. To make the frosting, rinse and drain the cashews and place in a food processor or blender along with the soya milk, sweetener, lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Process until completely smooth.  Add the melted coconut oil and continue to process until thoroughly combined. 
  8. When the cake is completely cool, spoon the frosting onto the cake and spread evenly. (Or if you have just made the frosting and it hasn’t had time to set pour it straight over the cake).
  9. Transfer to the fridge to allow the frosting to set.
  10. Enjoy with a good cup of tea.

The cake will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Keep in an airtight container if possible to stop the frosting from discolouring.

And that’s a wrap! I hope to have something new up same time next week. If you have any questions or comments about today’s recipes feel free to drop me a line.

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