Deep-fried courgette flower parcels of sheep’s cheese and pinenuts with olive tapenade

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Now and again during the summer, Organic Joe will bring us some courgettes with their flowers attached, the size of ten-year-olds’ little fingers, and when the oohing and aahing is over we deep fry them, usually with a stuffing. Some parcel materials are an important part of the flavours in the dish, others are simply wrapping. Courgette flowers, for all their fragile elegance, fall into the second category, so the excitement in the dish comes from the brevity of the season when you have tiny courgettes with healthy flowers and the need to use them very soon after picking - the flowers will only be usable for a day, really. Any size of flower will do but the prettiest presentation comes from small flowers with tiny courgettes attached. If the courgette is too big, cut it off leaving a little bit attached to help hold the end of the flower together. And if you don’t have sheep’s cheese, pinenuts or basil, use the flowers anyway with whatever stuffing you can make, because it’s one of those dishes that makes both cooks and diners feel close to nature.

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Ingredients

  • 2 scallions
  • 200 g Knockalara cheese
  • 2 dstspns pinenuts
  • 100 g breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 8-12 courgette flowers, depending on their size

For the Batter

  • oil for deep frying
  • 120 g plain flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 300 mls cold water

For the Tapenade

  • 2 tblspns tapenade
  • 2 tblspns olive oil

Method

CHOP THE SCALLIONS FINELY, crumble the cheese, lightly toast the pinenuts, then combine these, and mix in the crumbs and the egg yolk. Season generously but check the saltiness of the cheese first; Knockalara isn’t usually salty but if you’re using another sheep’s cheese it may be. Chop the basil and mix it in. Gently open a courgette flower, without tearing it, and take out the stamen. Then put in some of the filling, enough to fill the flower quite firmly but leaving the darker end empty and loose - use this to close the parcel by twisting it gently. You can manipulate the filling from the outside with your fingers to make sure the flower is neatly packed and has returned to something like its former shape. Repeat with the other flowers.

Heat the oil to approximately 180°C/350°F, and meanwhile make the batter by combining the flour, salt and pepper, dropping in the egg yolk and then whisking in the water until you get a thick pouring consistency. You may not need all the water; some days you may need a little more. Place the flowers in the batter to coat them, then lower them gently into the oil. They should cook in about three or four minutes, and may need turning.

For the tapenade sauce, simply dilute the tapenade with olive oil until you have a pouring consistency you like.

To serve, place two or three parcels on each plate and drizzle some tapenade around each.