PLUGLIAN STUFFED COURGETTE FLOWERS
Fried courgette flowers are a traditional ‘Cucina Povera’ type of recipe throughout Italy where the most basic of ingredients are used (the fresh flowers of the courgette)and the result is nothing short of delicious (deliziosa)!
They fall under this category of ‘Cucina Povera’ because most people would grow their own vegetables and then use the milk from their cows (or that of their neighbours) to make the cheese!
Each region of the Italian Peninsula has its own version of this most delicately flavoured traditional recipe but this one, from Zia Lucia is wonderfully simple and delicious. Stuffed courgette flowers are crisp little morsels with a tantalising filling, mostly served as a starter to a sophisticated dinner but here on the farm and in Bari, they are a seasonal must-have!
Courgette flowers grow on the marrow plant but are usually available on market stalls in the Spring and Summer, when they have to be picked to prevent the fruit from becoming too large.
I’ve only just arrived here on the Terre Di San Vito land – the first time back in two years thanks to the pandemic but I’m here now! Driving on to the estate, my cousin Giovanni (wine tasting expert) points out the courgettes are flowering. ‘Oh, we could ask mamma to make stuffed courgette flowers for lunch?’ I could taste them before they had even been picked!
In Italy, markets sell the whole of the plant – the courgette and the flower. I know in the UK and USA they are more difficult to find, except at farmer’s markets and quite expensive but this recipe really is worth a try and if you have been growing your own recently – even better! We use the female flower as they are smaller (the male one we use when deep frying in a batter!)
Zia Lucia’s recipe can be used as a starter or on a special occasion as a canapé!
12 Courgette flowers
250g fresh ricotta cheese
50g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
250g fresh breadcrumbs
Handful mint (freshly chopped)
Oil for frying, such as sunflower oil
Preparing the dish
The success of this recipe for stuffed courgette flowers (Fiori di zucchine ripieni ) primarily depends on the freshness of the flower and its lacy crispness, that is to say, it must never be frazzled but perfectly fried to preserve the light and delicate flavour of this marvellous blossom. Watch out on the amount of mint too – don’t overdo it!
The stuffing mix
Wash the courgette flowers very gently under cold running water.
Carefully remove the hard pistil from inside the flower by pinching it off. It’s okay if they tear a little or you open them completely because it’s easier to make sure there’s no dirt or bugs inside this way!
Place the flowers on a clean tea towel or kitchen roll to dry.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, grated Parmigiano Reggiano chopped mint and one egg to obtain a smooth, soft cream.
Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Stuffing the flowers
Carefully open the flower petals and using a teaspoon of mixture at a time, start to fill the inner cavity.
Take great care not to overfill the flower or it will burst during frying.
Close the tips of the petals by twisting the tops so that the filling remains in place and set them aside for frying.
In a shallow bowl, beat the remaining two eggs and on a separate spread the breadcrumbs.
Carefully roll each stuffed flower in the egg then into the breadcrumbs so each one has a light coating.
Put on a plate ready for frying.
Frying the flowers
The courgette flowers can be deep or shallow fried.
Put your frying pan containing the sunflower oil on to heat to around180°C and heat your oven.
Check the oil is hot but not smouldering by adding a few of the breadcrumbs – when they sizzle the oil is ready to use.
Fry the flowers a few at a time for about 3 minutes turning until crisp and light brown all over.
Drain on kitchen paper and keep hot in the oven while cooking the rest of the batches.
To serve the stuffed courgette flowers
The flowers can be served warm or cold. Add a light sprinkling of salt.
They make a delicious starter or canapé. Because in the UK they are difficult to find and usually quite expensive, serve them on special occasions or when you want to share the love!
Our Terre Di San Vito Sparkling Brut white wine, chilled, is the perfect pairing for this dish.
Buon appetito e salutè!
The courgette flowers can be coated in breadcrumbs or in a light batter.
They can be served hot or cold.
Courgette flowers can also be served in a risotto (recipe to follow this summer)
Take care not to over do the mint – best to start with a small amount.