Yellow Courgette, Chickpea, Red Onion, Chilli, Watercress and Feta Salad

Basil Crème Fraîche Dressing

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By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

  • About

Yellow courgettes are a very pretty vegetable; they have a lovely colour and seem to brighten up a plate of food fairly easily. If you can’t find any, just use ordinary green ones, but make sure they’re very fresh.

I tend always to cook chickpeas from scratch as I like to buy those lovely tiny Spanish ones, but if you aren’t sure how old your dried chickpeas are I’d recommend you buy a good-quality canned variety. It will save you hours in preparation and cooking time.

I use a lot of olive oil to make this as the oil forms part of the dressing, but if you’re on a low-oil diet, then use a non-stick pan to cook the onions and cut back – but it won’t be quite as delicious! This is great served at room temperature – never straight from the fridge if prepared in advance.


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 moderately hot red chilli, thinly sliced into rings (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 600 g cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if from a can
  • handful of picked flat leaf parsley
  • 250 g feta, cut into small chunks
  • 4 medium yellow courgettes, topped and tailed
  • salt
  • 2 handfuls of watercress

For the Basil and Crème Fraîche Dressing

  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche


Heat all but 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wide pan and cook the onions to wilt them, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, chilli and thyme, and continue to cook until the onions are caramelized. Add the lemon juice and zest, and the chickpeas, and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Take off the heat and tip into a bowl. When it has cooled a little, mix in the parsley and feta, and leave to one side.

To make the basil and crème fraîche dressing: place the basil and sugar in a mortar and grind to a paste with a pestle, then mix in the crème fraîche and 1 tablespoon of cold water and lightly season. Alternatively, finely chiffonade (shred) the basil and mix with the sugar, crème fraîche, water and seasoning.

Peel the courgettes into ribbons with a potato peeler. Peel one side until you get to the centre, then peel the opposite side. Lastly peel the sides off. You want every piece to have some of the yellow skin on it. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the courgettes, gently stir, count to 20 and then drain and rinse under cold water and drain again.

To Serve

Arrange the courgette slices around the outside rim of your plates, and place the watercress on the inside. Divide the chickpea salad on top of the watercress. Serve the basil dressing to the side and let your guests help themselves.