This recipe is adapted from:
“The Kitchen Diaries” (Nigel Slater)
As I’ve mentioned, here in Milan we’re going through something of a heat wave, so I thought I’d at least nod to summer and make these delicious little fresh tasting cakes. Well, that, and the fact that I had a bag of courgettes lurking at the bottom of the fridge looking a bit sad and neglected.
Nigel Slater’s recipe included dill as a main seasoning, which I have to say that I’m not a fan of, unless it’s fringing some excellent gravlax. I used the aromatic fresh herbs that are around right now – a mixture of fresh marjoram, oregano, lemon thyme and flat-leaved parsley – but you could use, I think, any selection of soft-leaved fragrant herbs with great results. A bit of mint would be lovely, I’m sure.
Really, rather than cakes, these remind me of individual frittatas but where eggs are used just to bind them together, rather than being the main ingredient. It struck me as I was cooking them, that you could probably cook one big cake filling the whole frying pan rather than individual ones. This would also help to cut the fat used for frying too.
The original recipe suggests that you serve the zucchini cakes with a fine-quality coarse chutney, which I think would be spot on for a summery lunch, with some crusty white bread along side. We were eating this quite late in the evening, and it was a very dark night, it being only March, so a completely salady supper seemed wrong. I decided to make a tomato sauce to go alongside, and serve rice instead of bread.
6 – 8 zucchini, depending on size
1/2 white onion, chopped finely
1 fat clove garlic, chopped finely
4 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
handful fresh, aromatic herbs, chopped
150g Feta cheese
Wash the zucchini and then grate them coarsely into a colander. Give them a nice grinding of salt, mix them up, and then leave in the colander in the sink or over a bowl for 40 minutes.
First, sauté the onions gently until they have softened nicely, but without colouring. As you’re doing this, squeeze out the water from the zucchini in your hands and transfer to a new bowl. When the onions have cooked, add the garlic and stir for a few minutes, and then add the zucchini. Cook until the zucchini are soft, and everything looks beautifully gold and green.
At this point, add the flour, stirring in for a few minutes, so it has a chance to cook. Then remove the whole lot to a bowl. (At this point, go carefully adding the rest of the ingredients – you want to end up with a mixture that is quite unctuous and moist, but not sloppy. When you take tablespoons-full over to the pan to fry, they should be able to keep their shape.) Stir in one egg to start with, the herbs, and crumble in the feta. If it needs it, you can add more egg to loosen, or a tablespoon more flour to firm up.
Heat up some olive oil in a big frying pan. If you’re going to do individual patties, you’ll need about 3 tablespoons, or for one big frittata a bit less. Take heaped tablespoons of the mixture and drop them carefully onto the frying pan (or bung it all in and flatten for one single cake). Allow to cook until that side has become golden coloured, then flip carefully with a spatula and spoon to cook the other side (use a plate to turn for a big cake). I fried mine in two batches, and these quantities made 10 cakes, which would be enough for 2 or 3 people, depending on hunger.
Serve with tomato sauce and rice.