So here's another side dish winner - let me welcome to the stage, your friend and mine the Courgette, Feta and Mint Salad.
This is a good looking dish; a dish that will serve you well; a dish that transforms a rather dull vegetable into a true showstopper; a real 'OOh - can I have the recipe' kind of dish. It's a sensational mix of the glorious flavour and texture of the griddled courgettes, with the salty feta cheese, dressed with a zingy lemon dressing and sprinkled with some fresh mint and a scattering of toasted sesame seeds. But first of all, let me share the secrets to success with this salad.
The secret is in the process. WARNING - I'm going to be a bit bossy here ... Get a good process and you are laughing - ignore the process and it will take you longer than you want to spend preparing a salad. The bit that takes the time here is slicing and griddling the courgettes. It's not at all difficult, but it does take a few minutes - I prepared mine in 30 minutes - and without a good process, you'll spend much longer. Follow this guide the first time and then tweak it to suit you and your kitchen when you next make it.
- Gather your equipment and ingredients - You'll need your courgettes, a sharp knife, a chopping board, a small dish of olive oil, a pastry brush, salt and pepper, a griddle pan, a plate (about the same size as the griddle pan), a pair of cooking tongs .... and some good music / a radio programme that you love / your podcast of choice (definitely my new favourite thing ... yes, I know, I'm late to the podcast party but I'm now making up for lost time for sure).
- Turn on your musical / talky accompaniment of choice.
- Prepare the courgettes - Wash them, cut the ends off them and then using your sharp knife cut them as thin as you dare along the length of the courgettes into slices. Don't worry if some are shorter than others, but put to one side the stumpy bits at the end of slicing that really don't lend themselves to making 'thin' happen easily - you can use these end bits in a soup or save them up to add to a stir fry.
- Turn the heat on under the griddle pan - It'll take a minute or two to heat up. The extractor fan turned on could be a good plan here.
- Oil the courgettes - Spread a single layer of courgette slices on your plate and brush them generously on one side with olive oil. Now season them lightly on the same side.
- Start griddling - The griddle pan should be hot enough now. Use the tongs to lay the slices from the plate (oiled side down) on the griddle pan. If your plate is the same size as the pan you should be able to fit everything that you have oiled into the pan.
- While the courgettes are griddling, skip back to stage 5 and repeat - you want to have the next lot ready to go into the pan as soon as the current ones are cooked.
- Keep an eye on the ones in the pan - turn them over when they are nicely cooked and a little bit charred. Some of the oil and the seasoning on the initial side of the courgettes will be left on the pan when you turn them over, so there is no need to waste time treating the second side.
- When they are cooked on both sides, use the tongs to add them to your serving plate. I like to serve them scrunched up.
- Repeat until you've run out of courgette slices.
And once you've finished this part, the rest is a piece of cake...
So, let me shed some more light on why this side dish is sure to become a favourite -
- It can all be prepared ahead of time and will keep perfectly in the fridge until you need it. I normally add the dressing, the mint and the sesame seeds just before I serve it but last time I completely finished it and then kept it in the fridge until the evening. Not sure really that there would have been a huge discernible difference if I'd done the finishing at the last minute.
- This is a very cost-effective dish - courgettes seem to be great value for money wherever you are in the world. And the salad also makes a tiny piece of feta go a long way, so that's good news too.
- This is a real looker of a dish. Use a big, flat white plate (the bigger the better) and you'll stun the crowd.
- No great skill required for this dish. You'll need a little bit of time (see the process above) but with the right music/radio/podcast it will be a pleasure, not a chore.
- This is a fresh, zingy, healthy salad - the kind of dish that makes one swoon.
- If there are any leftovers, they taste gorgeous the next day. Look out lunch boxes.
- Goes beautifully with a BBQ, lamb, salmon, cold meats. Perfect as part of a picky starter.
So grab a griddle pan and get griddling. Operation Courgette, Feta and Mint Salad here we come ...