Day 82: Braised Courgettes with Mint & Feta on Toast
inspired by Jolene
Today marks another milestone in my food blog. I have run out of space in my notebook.
84 days ago (two days before my first attempt at restaurant cooking), on Monday 23rd March, I bought a domain name, started to work out how on earth to use WordPress and opened a pale pink notebook.
A notebook that had been destined for a theatre project. But, after all my work for the foreseeable future got cancelled, I couldn’t bear to look at this empty notebook sitting on my desk. It’s pages blank, it’s destiny unfullfilled.
This is what I started to write on the first page….
A list of restaurants. Of dishes. Of things I loved to eat. And slowly, over the past weeks and months, I have been going back to this page (and the many pages that followed, it was a very long list) and ticking off the restaurants I have been inspired by and the food I have cooked. Not everything was set in stone.
In the end I made a venison dish inspired by Native. No dashi stock to be found.
I saw Pret post a recipe for their dark chocolate & almond butter cookies and I just couldn’t resist.
Luciano’s, my local Italian restaurant, is the only one I’ve not ticked off on this first page. I’m trying desperately to hold out for the day I can find some clams so I can make vongole, my favourite pasta dish. But I might just crack and make their ravioli instead.
As I flick through the rest of the notebook I see week after week of meal plans, blog ideas, restaurant menus and shopping lists.
Aidan jokes there have been military operations that involve less planning. At least I hope he’s joking
Looking at all the notebook pages also reminds me of Jolene. A bakery, restaurant and wine bar in Hackney. Each day they post their menu on Instagram, on a notebook page. I love scrolling through the photos, seeing when the notebook changes, or admiring a different handwriting. These photographs give us a glimpse into the creation and planning of their dishes.
So it’s only fitting that for today’s post I go back to this time last year, to 14th June 2019 and cook something from that day.
Nothing at all to do with the fact that they had courgettes on that day and I have a lot of courgettes to eat. Total coincidence. Promise.
It was a Friday and this was their dinner menu. It seems like a dim and distant past now doesn’t it? The idea of meeting friends on a Friday night and heading out to a restaurant. I imagine the groups of friends gather around tables at Jolene for the evening.
Now our Friday nights consist of eating on our laps whilst finding a boxset to watch. OK, if I’m honest quite a few of my Friday nights were like that anyway. But it was nice to know I had the option of a night out. Even if I did so often pick a night in instead.
“Braised Courgettes, Mint & Feta on Toast”
I’ve never really considered braising courgettes before. I guess I slow cook them in a ratatouille, or a curry perhaps, but most often I either roast or quickly pan fry these veg.
I’ve made a loaf of homemade bread this morning, specially for this.
As that cools on the side I start chopping my courgette and a garlic glove. I add the garlic to some olive oil in a pan with chilli flakes and crushed fennel seeds. In go the courgettes. I let them fry for a minute, season with salt and pepper, and then add a splash of water. On goes a lid, the heat get’s turned down and I leave them for forty minutes.
After this amount of cooking the courgettes are really soft. I squash them slightly with the back of a spoon so they are sort of half spoonable, half spreadable and they get piled onto the toast.
I scatter chopped mint and crumbled feta on top and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
It’s absolutely delicious. Even Aidan, who turned his nose up at the idea of courgettes on toast for lunch, looks a bit envious as he tries some and then has to go back to his ham sandwich.
Sometimes it really is the simple dishes that make the most enjoyable meals.
It might not be a Friday night out in East London. But as I sit in my garden eating this home grown courgette on home made bread I think about all the things I’ve learned as all our nights out have changed to nights in.
But as I crack open another blank notebook, ready for more home cooking adventures, I hope. I really, really hope, that I’m back in restaurants before I get to the end of this one.