Culinaria: Baby courgettes get the blowtorch treatment
Nothing is more fun (in the realm of Culinaria) than taking a blowtorch to a baby courgette. It may seem a little excessive, and a tad dangerous, but the rewards in terms of taste and texture are delightful.
Chargrilling vegetables and getting them as close to black as possible is extremely fashionably of late in many restaurants. Though it may seem excessive, there is a logic behind this culinary pyromania. Charred foods taste nicer because of the ways in which they give off a desirable flavour.
While this Maillard reaction is commonly associated with meat, it can be achieved with vegetables, too. Golden brown crusts of bread and browned onions also give off the umami like quality of charred meat. In spite of the complexity of this process in our mouth (hundreds of different compounds breaking down to form newer, more favourable compounds), it is easy to achieve.
The sweetness of late summer or early autumn courgettes proves readily acceptable to burning. If you don’t have baby courgettes, pop down to the market and pick up some beautiful green organic ones.
Cut the baby courgettes in two, or the large courgettes in four. Place them on a stainless steel tray and turn on your blowtorch. Char the outside of each until it is black. Though it may not seem so, there is a delicacy to this process. You want to balance the sweetness of the courgette with the bitter quality of the singed outside.
When you’re happy with the appearance of the courgette, dress it with extra virgin rapeseed oil (or duck fat if you’re so inclined) and season with nice flaky Irish sea salt.
All you have to do after this is decide how to eat them. Putting them directly into the mouth without the addition of anything else is amenable. But try dipping them in some lovely sheep’s yogurt. This is a close as its gets to culinary heaven. JP McMahon