Courgettes are innocent enough looking when they first arrive
– but soon they expand and take over your life like triffids. Beware the courgette.
Little did I know when I took delivery of my spiffing Rocket Garden of baby veg plants in April that it would be the courgettes that were the real trouble makers. They were so innocent, with just one or two oval leaves – looking no larger than any of the other plants, and much smaller than the strawberries, for instance. The directions recommended a distance of 45cm between plantings, which is more or less what they now have, but they now seem so large that they tower over the long since bolted lettuces and shriveled brown pea plants.
Courgette gluts are a gardening cliché, but with good reason – once they start producing, they don’t stop, and if you leave them for more than two days without checking, you will turn around to find a marrow has appeared.
So far the production has been a pleasant trickle – two or three courgettes every 4 or 5 days is very manageable, and can easily be converted into pasta – linguine, lemon juice, parmesan, oiive oil – or substitute for aubergine in a parmigiana.
However, we are now well into production on all four of my plants, so it’s more like 4 courgettes every other day. Serious help is clearly needed.
So when my mother-in-law asked me yesterday if I had any good courgette cake recipes, it occured to me that in fact I had the perfect one, but hadn’t tried it yet. I am referring, of course, to Chocolate and Zucchini cake from Clotilde’s Chocolate and Zucchini book (and from the blog of the same name).
Having once made a Jamie Oliver beetroot cake that was a disaster, I am wary of baked goods with vegetables in, but I have complete faith in Clotilde and I knew she would not lead me astray. And so it proved: as she notes in the book, if you didn’t tell anyone this had courgettes in, they would never tell. It’s just a really soft, moist chocolate cake, not too sweet. In fact, it could probably bear icing with something like buttercream and still be good. Even the olive oil I used in place of butter (as she suggests) is all but undetectable. So if you have courgette problems this summer, simply make endless batches of this and freeze where necessary.
Chocolate and Zucchini cake
Adapted, just barely, from Clotilde Dusoulier’s ‘Chocolate & Zucchini’
- 240g plain flour
- 60g cocoa
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 180g light brown sugar
- 120ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp instant coffee granules or instant espresso powder
- 350g courgettes (zucchini), grated – about 2 medium courgettes
- 150g chocolate chips or chunks
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F.
Put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl and use a whisk to mix everything together thoroughly and distribute the baking powder and bicarbonate.
Put the olive oil and sugar into a mixer bowl or food processor and combine for 3 or 4 minutes until thoroughly mixed together. It won’t cream as butter and sugar would, and may form clumps – don’t worry. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix thoroughly after each one, until the mixture is smooth again.
Add the vanilla and coffee granules or powder to the egg mixture.
Meanwhile grate the courgettes fairly finely – I used the grating disc on my food processor, but it wouldn’t take too long with a hand grater.
Add just over half of the flour mixture to the eggs and very gently mix until the flour hasn’t quite disappeared.
Toss the remaining flour with the grated courgettes and chocolate chips to coat them.
Add this on top of the rest of the batter, and fold together gently with a large spoon or spatula.
Pour into a greased or lined tin.
I used a 2lb (large) loaf tin and 6 muffin cases. Clotilde recommended a 25cm springform tin. You could also do them all as cupcakes, which I’m guessing would make around 18.
Bake at 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F for about 20 minutes for the cupcakes, and 45 minutes for the loaf cake.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. If you use a springform tin, unclip the outside at 10 minutes, but leave in the tin to cool completely.
The cupcakes are especially good when they’re still a little warm.