A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Courgette anyone?

Courgettes in the garden...

Picked and waiting.....still life

Looking for inspiration...

Pestle and mortaring....is that a technical term?


Posted by PicasaI ate courgettes or should I say zucchini for the very first time in 1977. It was one of those mid seventies long hot summers, when standpipes could be found and Hertforshire was turning into a dust bowl. I can be so precise as it was the summer my Aunty Jenny visited, she was by dad's sister and my Godmother.  She  had, few years before, moved to Georgia in the USA , and had established a bountiful kitchen garden full of exotic (well to us) vegetables.  I can't tell you how happy her visit made me. I was 11 and she made me feel so special,  arriving with gifts, American clothes ( cool) and pens. But more than that, she spent time talking to me, and helped me with my school project (about our family history). I still have the pictures she drew of a girl and boy in traditional Polish costume.  She was, very much like my dad, full of stories and talked to me about her life and wanted to know all about mine.  In the town where I grew up Wednesday is market day, that warm afternoon, whilst I was at school, she had walked down to the market and there she found zucchini, something she grew at home, and brought them home to cook for dinner.  Now I grew up in a meat and two veg household, as most of us did, and the veg was usually frozen peas and carrots, cauliflower on a Sunday and that was about it! I can't tell you what else we had for dinner that night but I do remember the courgettes, sliced thinly, seasoned and sauteed in butter.  This simple act planted a seed and made me realise there were more flavours out there than I had experienced before and that it was good to grow your own vegetables.....

This year, for the first time, I have a vegetable patch.  Last summer I had, what could only be called a vegetable strip, I was frustrated by lack of space so, one sunny April day, I set to digging a bigger one.  I can't say it has been a great success my beetroot and spring onions failed to thrive and my carrots have been pretty poor, but my courgettes, well, what can I say! Despite heat at the wrong time, too much rain when not needed, ta da.......here are my courgettes! Glossy and bountiful, yellow flowered and well, just there! Dependable and ready to eat on a daily basis....now I love sauteed courgette heavily seasoned with pepper, or with some fresh herbs, a good olive oil and cherry tomatoes that burst with flavour in your mouth, but with such abundance I felt the need to find some alternative recipes.  Nigel Slater has a good one for breadcrumb dressed and tomato strewn, but that wasn't so very different to what I had been doing, then I recalled Molly Wizenberg's recipe for zucchini noodles with pesto....After a rummage I found everything I needed, well kind of, Greek basil rather than the usual, although I must say I have a preference for pesto made with this, the flavour is subtler not so overpowering, as pesto can sometime be.  So here is the recipe, a delightful mid summer supper, served with a fresh crisp cold glass of white wine....and accompanied by thoughts of my lovely Aunty Jenny, who sadly died after a long battle with breast cancer. I last saw her when I was  18 and she drove for many hours to spend the day with me. Another hot summer, this time in Pennsylvania. Thank you for introducing me to zucchini and thank you even more for just taking the time to make me feel special.

On my Christening day...

With my brother in the garden of our house 1977

Me, Aunty Jenny and my mum....1993 outside my mum's sisters house in Hatboro Pa

Aunty Jenny x

Courgette noodles with pesto 
For the pesto
Buy a good jar of pesto, or a fresh pot from the chiller....or make your own....
If that is what you decide you will need..............
2 cups basil leaves (well packed) washed and dried ( I had Greek basil but use what you will)
1/2 cup olive oil, good and fruity
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 medium cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Parmigiano-Reggiano

For the noodles
3 medium courgettes trimmed
3 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti or linguine
finely grated Parmigiano for serving

If making your own pesto do this first

Put everything (except the cheese) into a pestle and mortar and give it all a good pounding....I did this for a while then put it all in my food processor.  Process until a smooth and creamy consistency is achieved. Tip into a bowl and stir through the Parmigiano. Set aside, not in the fridge, you want the flavours to develop.

Prepare the courgettes, either use a mandolin fitted with a julienne blade or patience and a knife, carefully slice the courgettes into long skinny noodles.  Cook spaghetti, whilst cooking heat the oil in a wok or some other such pan, stir fry the courgette for 5-8 mins, don't over cook.  When the spaghetti is 'al dente' add to the courgettes, make sure this is not over drained as the cooking water acts as an emulsifier to the pesto. Add 1/2 cup of the pesto and toss well, add a little more if liked. Serve immediately with extra Parmiagiano on the table (well in a bowl to be precise) and some salt to add for taste.

The remaining pesto may be kept covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.



  1. Andrea! This is lovely. I miss her so much. Jamie and I spent a lot of summers with her and I will always think of her when I see red Cannes in someone's garden. She always had a beautiful garden, and yes, she made me eat zucchini.

    I would love to see the pictures she drew - could you scan them and send to my email: samanthaharrell@hotmail.com


  2. Sam,
    Thank you! I am glad you liked it, memories are so personal but she was lovely.

    Will see what I can do re picture.

    love Andrea xx

  3. Thanks Cuz for making me blubber never to proud to shed a tear !!!!

  4. Won't say sorry Henry, it is a healthy, good tear that you shed, glad you liked the post. xx