Creamy pesto courgetti with asparagus and mushrooms


Well, I’m a couple of years late boarding the carb alternatives train, partly because carbs bring me joy on a daily basis and I’ve never felt the need to be deprived of them. Also, I won’t allow myself to buy anymore cooking gadgets for the sake of our tiny, crammed galley kitchen, despite the distinct urge to buy a spiraliser when they were last year’s go-to bit of kit. However, my lovely soon-to-be in-laws got me a mandolin for my birthday so I thought I’d have a go at making courgetti.

Courgetti, as I’m sure many of you will know, is a healthy and green alternative to spaghetti. By slicing a courgette into thin strips using a mandolin and then slicing them again with a knife into finer strips, you can achieve a similar shape to spaghetti. You can of course also use a spiraliser which may be even simpler.

Courgetti is very low in calories. You feel a bit smug and virtuous while eating it. And, surprisingly, it did fill me up. I think it’s a psychological thing, but after finishing this dish, despite it being very tasty, I instantly felt unsatisfied. This is probably because I’ve got a big appetite and am used to shovelling a vat-full of pasta into my mouth. However, after waiting for 20 minutes or so, while the little courgette worms started to make their way through my digestive system I did begin to feel full up. So if you’re a bit reluctant like I was, give it a go. I’ll definitely be making it again.

I was inspired to make pesto while flicking through Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook book. She suggested using pistachios in her version, but I didn’t have any in, so I opted for cashews instead. The combination of the crunchy cashews with the zesty lemon, the rich sour cream and pungent basil works really well and reminds me of summer.

This meal is a great mid-week option as you can have it ready within 20 minutes AND because it’s got so much goodness in it, you can balance it out with a tasty dessert. I just happened to pair the courgetti with vegetables I had in the fridge, but you could swap asparagus for crunchy mangetout or green beans and perhaps some butter beans instead of mushrooms to achieve that lovely earthy texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • Finely grated cheddar cheese, to serve

For the creamy cashew pesto sauce

  • 10 or so jumbo cashew nuts
  • a large handful of fresh basil
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • finely grated cheese, to taste
  • plenty of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp sour cream or creme fraiche

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 1

Method

  1. Finely slice the courgette using a mandolin. Pile up your courgette slices on a chopping board and thinly slice them lengthways. Set them aside in a bowl.
  2. Prepare the pesto. If you have a food processor, put all of the pesto ingredients – except for the sour cream – into the processor and whizz them up until mostly smooth. Don’t worry if it’s not entirely smooth, it’s nice to have a little bit of crunch. If, like me, you don’t have a food processor, do the same but chop the cashew nuts up with a knife as small as you can first, then use a measuring jug to put the ingredients into and whizz them up with a hand whisk. When you’ve got a paste, mix in the sour cream.
  3. Put the grill on a high heat and place the asparagus spears under the grill for 5-1o minutes, or until they have softened.
  4. Put a frying pan on to a medium high heat and pour in the sunflower oil. Fry the mushrooms for five or so minutes, until they begin to soften.
  5. Meanwhile, boil the kettle. Pour boiled water over the courgette slices and leave for 30 seconds to a minute, then drain.
  6. Add the courgetti to the pan and reduce the heat. Stir in the creamy sauce and take off the heat.
  7. When the asparagus has softened, remove it from the grill. Chop the spears in three and add to the pan. Stir all of the ingredients in well together and season well.
  8. Serve in a pasta bowl topped with some finely grated cheese.

Feta, courgette and chickpea salad

Cooked courgette ribbons, soft and succulent mushrooms, firm and filling chickpeas, and crunchy red onion make a tasty and healthy base for this warm salad. Cooked with a touch of cumin and topped with crumbly feta cheese, this dish makes a perfect light lunch. And, you can have it on the table within 15 minutes.

Feta, courgette and chickpea saladThis salad is a bit of a melting pot of cuisines. It came about from bits and bobs I had left in the fridge and cupboard.

Courgettes and mushrooms are two of my favourite vegetables. Their flavours are subtle yet satisfying and they’re incredibly versatile. They can be used in everything from curries to salads, on top of pizzas or in dips. They work well in this salad as they are soft and juicy.

The chickpeas and cumin bring exotic, Middle Eastern flavours and the richness of the feta cheese finishes the dish off delightfully.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 4 mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • ½ red onion, roughly sliced
  • ½ courgette, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 150g chickpeas
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 30g feta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves one

Method

1. Put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and pour in the sunflower oil.

2. Add the mushrooms and courgette and fry for two to three minutes. Mix in the onion and fry for another couple of minutes, until the onion begins to soften (but not too much; it’s better with a bit of bite).

3. Pour in the chickpeas and scatter over the cumin. Cook for another three to five minutes, stirring throughout.

4. Serve the mixture in a pasta bowl or on a plate. Crumble over the feta and season well.