I’ve inherited from my mum and dad an almost self-destructive hatred of food wastage. ‘Use by’ dates were scoffed at in our house and if fuzzy mould appeared on tomato paste, jams or cheese it was never a reason to throw it out. It could always be remedied by a quick scraping with a metal spoon and a declaration of ‘its perfectly fine’. As a result my favourite way of cooking is to create a meal out of the ingredients that I have in the fridge and pantry, especially if it means using up something before it goes limp or mouldy.
This process has become infinitely more interesting and challenging since I’ve been staying with my sister as she has an organic fruit and veg box delivered each week. Its potluck what comes as they provide you with whatever is in season. Sadly, Wednesdays have become the highlight of my week when Chris delivers the box and I see what mystery ingredients I have to work with. Will I be able to rise to the challenge and use all the contents of the veg box before next week's delivery? I have to admit that the kohlrabi and turnip season was a particularly lucrative period for the compost bin.
Anxiety associated with optimum utilisation of organic Veg Boxes is fast becoming a new yuppie syndrome – if you need a support group or suggestions on what to do with challenging vegetables visit the Veg Box Diaries.
For the last few weeks there has been a continuous and slightly monotonous supply of zucchinis (courgettes to the Brits). After barbecuing, steaming, and ratatouilling them I decided it was time to gratinate the little mo fos.
This recipe is inspired by a 70’s-esque dish my mother used to make. Mum’s used grated potato rather than zucchini and was usually made on a night they were going out because it is quick and she could make it ahead of time.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion finely diced
70g cubed pancetta
500g or 4 medium sized zucchini, grated
1 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh mint
¾ cup mature cheddar cheese
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup buttermilk
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of sliced mushrooms or sliced tomato for the top.
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a slice tin with non-stick baking paper so that it overhangs on all sides. Heat oil in frying pan and cook pancetta until lightly brown, then add onion until softened but not coloured. Remove from heat, stir in rosemary and cool.
Squeeze any excess liquid from grated zucchini and add to cooled onion mixture with grated cheese and flour.
In a bowl lightly beat eggs with buttermilk and season with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped mint. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Pour into the tin and arrange mushroom or tomato slices on top. Bake for 40 minutes or until firm in the centre. Allow it to cool and firm little before turning out to slice it.
Serve with a salad and of course…. chutney.