Amazing ingredients: Cook with courgettes

Courgettes, or zucchini, if you're from the USA, are a dieter's best friend. They're really low in calories (just 17 calories per 100g), and contain no cholesterol or saturated fat. But that's not the only reason to enjoy this delicious summer vegetable. The Expertrain team love courgettes, whether we're adding them to omelettes and salads or making a courgette soup. Their skins are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can protect against colon cancer and help to keep you regular too!

More health benefits

Courgettes are also packed with antioxidants such as zea-xanthin, lutein and carotenes, essential for healthy skin and eyes - these help to fight free radicals which cause ageing and damage to your body. They're loaded with potassium, which counteracts sodium in your diet to reduce your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy, and they're a source of folates and minerals. Courgettes are also rich in vitamin C - 100g contains 30% of your daily intake, as well as vitamin A and B-complex vitamins.

Choosing courgettes

Courgettes have a high water content and they're usually available year round. However be aware when buying them at your supermarket in the winter months that they'll be imported. By far the best time to buy courgettes is during the summer months at your local farmers' market stalls or supermarket. Courgettes are affordable too - at around £1.60/kg they can be used in a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes. Press to see how firm they are - the skin should be green and free of pits or discolourations. Discard any which feel too squishy. Although courgettes keep well in the fridge, they can become bitter over time, so it's best to eat them within a few days of purchase.

Recipe ideas

So, you've got a whole load of courgettes in your fridge but you don't know what to do with them? Expertrain to the rescue! Luckily, courgettes are an incredibly versatile vegetable, whatever you're in the mood to eat, and they make a great addition to many vegetarian and meat-based dishes. We've got a few ideas to get you started cooking with courgettes; soon you'll be experimenting and coming up with your own recipes!

Courgette and Goat's Cheese Tart

It's an eggy, creamy, cheesy delight that's definitely not for every day, but for an occasional treat, this goat's cheese tart with courgettes is perfect! Making your own tart at home is far healthier than buying ready-made quiche or tarts at your local supermarket, as you have complete control over the ingredients, and you'll only need a few basics to whip up this recipe. It's also a great source of protein from the cheese and eggs.

Griddled Mackerel with Courgette and Bean Salad

We should all aim to eat one to two portions of oily fish a week, to ensure we're getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for healthy brain development. This Jamie Olive recipe is the perfect way to get your quota - the mackerel is griddled for a crispy skin and the courgettes take on a lovely sweet, smoky charred flavour. The bean salad with a hint of mint and chilli is really fresh and packed with protein and fibre - one very healthy supper!

Layered Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole

Looking for a vegan recipe which uses up your courgettes and aubergines? It's kind of like a cheesy, spicy vegetarian chilli, and it's amazing comfort food on a cold night. Aubergines are packed with antioxidants and can help to lower your cholesterol - they're also very low in calories, making them the perfect addition to this casserole. This can be served as a main course or as a tasty vegetable side dish with fish or chicken.

Courgette Salad with Mint, Garlic and Red Chilli

Looking for a luscious, summery side dish? Look no further. Courgettes are complemented by fresh mint, red chilli and garlic in this lovely dish which also includes broad-beans, heart-healthy olive oil and peas. It's easy to make and takes minutes to prepare, yet it's packed with flavour and goodness.

Crunchy Courgette Pickle

Ever tried making your own pickle? Why not give it a go! This courgette pickle is perfect with burgers, salmon or served with crackers (and maybe a little cheese). You'll probably have most of the store cupboard ingredients to hand, so it's just a case of picking up some courgettes and shallot on your weekly shop. This keeps in the fridge for a couple of months and definitely beats store-bought chutneys and pickles!

Courgette Muffins

Courgettes aren't just for savoury dishes! Because of their high water content, they're a great way to keep muffins and cakes moist too. This muffin recipe is ideal if you want to get your kids involved in healthy cooking and eating. With apples, oranges, courgettes and sultanas, these muffins are really moreish - just don't eat them all at once!

Cheesy Baked Courgettes

Comfort food at its best, this is a yummy side dish that is great with salmon or grilled chicken (if you need some ideas for chicken marinades, look here!) Ricotta cheese, lemon and fresh herbs with a little chilli are perfect with courgettes, so whilst this is comforting, it's also light and summery. One of our favourites!

Risotto with Marinated Courgettes, Lemon and Thyme

Risottos can sometimes be heavy and overly creamy, but we love the fresh flavours in this recipe. With good fat from the olive oil, vitamin C from the lemon and courgettes and immune-boosting garlic, this is a healthy, delicious dish that can be made vegetarian using veggie stock or for meat eaters with the addition of chicken stock.

Of course there are plenty of other ways to use courgettes too - slice them into ribbons for 'pasta', add them to an omelette or include them in a roasted vegetable side-dish with peppers, red onions and sweet potato! Whilst you'll probably need to head for your local supermarket right now to pick up some courgettes, the summer weather is right around the corner (we hope!) so you should soon be able to buy them at your local market or in an organic vegetable box, delivered direct to your door - then you can create all these amazing recipes for yourself!

READ THIS NEXT: Healthy ingredients: Amazing aubergine

Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 11th Mar 2015 at 13:18

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