Ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers | Source: Donna Hay

Flower Power: All the Ways to Serve Courgette Flowers This Spring

Zucchini flowers, or squash blossoms, are the edible flowers produced from the zucchini plant. A seasonal staple in Italian, Greek, and other cuisines, zucchini flowers are a versatile and often overlooked ingredient.

Best purchased and prepared on the same day, zucchini flowers are the type of ingredient you pick up from your local farmer’s market on a warm spring or summer’s morning either to use as a delicate garnish or as a sophisticated starter or side dish. After carefully removing the inner pistil from the zucchini flowers, they can be baked, fried, deep-fried or stuffed.

With relatively mild and delicate flavours, baked zucchini flowers can benefit from plenty of seasoning. Often stuffed with ricotta and other flavour-packed ingredients like anchovies or chili, baked zucchini flowers are typically seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs like rosemary before baking for around 20 minutes or until golden.

Despite many stuffed zucchini flower recipes calling for cheeses, anchovies and sometimes meats, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the seasonal ingredient as a vegan or vegetarian. Stuffings made from cashew cream and seasoned with plenty of herbs and lemon make for a delightful appetiser. Mushrooms and even mashed potatos also make for a great vegan stuffing.

The Greek Way

While there are plenty of variations of stuffings and seasonings to bring flavour and depth to the humble zucchini flower, Greek cuisine often sees fresh and zesty stuffings made from feta, mint, and parsley. After being stuffed with a fragrant and fresh mix of herbs and feta, the flowers are typically fried or baked and then served alongside Greek yogurt or tzatziki for a fresh and delicious appetiser or side dish.

The Italian Recipe

When it comes to the Italian interpretations of stuffed or fried zucchini flowers, there tends to, unsurprisingly, be more cheese and meat. While there are plenty of recipes calling for the traditional ricotta, lemon zest, and herb stuffing, the Italians also enjoy stuffing zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovies and sometimes even prosciutto. After stuffing, the zucchini flowers can then be coated in flour and then fried in hot oil to give the delicate flower a crisp outer coating.

The Jamie Oliver Way

Ingredients

  1. Filling
  2. 250gm / 1 cup fresh ricotta
  3. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  4. 1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
  5. small handful mint finley chopped
  6. small handful parsley finely chopped
  7. 1 – 2 teaspoons chimichurri sauce / chilli paste / thick chilli sauce – optional
  8. zest of half a lemon
  9. juice of a 1/4 of a lemon
  10. salt and pepper to taste
  11. Batter
  12. 1 3/4 cup self-raising flour
  13. 1 1/2 cups soda water or sparkling mineral water
  14. Additional ingredients
  15. Oil for frying
  16. Additional parsley leaves and cut vegetables to dip and fry (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare a tray with layers of paper towel.
  2. Mix the ricotta with all the other filing ingredients until well combined. Taste along the way adjusting the seasoning as you go.
  3. Put the mixture into a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner snipped, and pipe this into the middle of the blossom. Gently fold the petals over the mixture to cover and twist at the top to seal
  4. Add the oil to a large pot to about 10cm deep, and heat to 180C / 350F. This is the temperature before smoking hot but one where if you added a piece of bread it would go golden very quickly.
  5. While the oil is heating, whisk the flour and soda water until you get the consistency of a runny pancake batter. Add more water or flour if necessary.
  6. When the oil reaches temperature, quickly dip the stuffed zucchini flowers through the batter and lightly shake off any excess. Gently drop this into the oil and fry on both sides until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat in batches and then fry any additional vegetables or parsley if desired.
  7. Serve immediately while still hot with wedges of fresh lemon and salt.

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