Thursday, 5 September 2013

Low-Carb Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta

Vegetables cooked to a tender mush are frowned upon these days, and I have to agree with the general sentiment that bright, fresh and tender-crisp is the way to go. I very seldom cook any plant to the point of disintegration but, then again, there are a handful of vegetables that are sublime when subjected to long, slow seething, among them aubergines, fennel, leeks, onions, waterblommetjies and tomatoes. And - as you will see in this this recipe - courgettes!

Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta Wheels
Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta Wheels.


Courgettes are meek veggies packing very little punch in the flavour department, but I love them in all forms - shaved raw into salads, grated and tangled into fritters and quiches, pencilled into stir-fries, and pan-fried in thick coins, all ready for a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon and salt.

They're also gorgeous when carefully cooked to a state of silken collapse: just think of the best ratatouilles of your life!  In this recipe, I've added cherry tomatoes, which are blistered in a very hot pan before they go into the oven.

This is good piping hot, with wheels of peppered feta, and it's also delicious cold as a snack or starter: see my Cook's Notes at the end of this blog post for further tips.


Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta Wheels
A simple but intense baked tomato sauce. Try this with halloumi cheese
instead of feta!



Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta 

3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
1 kg cherry tomatoes
a large sprig of thyme
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
5 Tbsp (75 ml) dry white wine
1 kg courgettes [baby marrows/zucchini]
salt and milled black pepper
3 'wheels' or squares (about 220 g in total) of feta cheese, patted dry on kitchen paper
baby mint or basil leaves, or fronds of fresh dill (see Cook's Notes)
extra olive oil, for sprinkling


Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta Wheels
The tomatoes are first blistered in a
frying pan, then roasted with the
courgettes.
Heat the oven to 180 ºC. Place a large roasting tray over a fierce heat on your hob and add the olive oil. When the oil is very hot - but not yet smoking -  add the cherry tomatoes and cook them, tossing the pan energetically, for a few minutes, or until their skins begin to blister and peel. Add the thyme, garlic and wine, stir well, and cook for another minute or two. Remove the tray and set aside.

Rinse the courgettes to get rid of any grit, top and tail them and cut them into 5-cm lengths. Add them to the roasting pan and mix everything together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the pan tightly with tin foil and bake at 180 ºC for 30 minutes. Now remove the foil, give the veggies a good stir and turn the heat down to 160 ºC, fan on (or to 170 ºC if your oven has no fan).

Cook uncovered for another 65-75 minutes, or until the tomato sauce has reduced and slightly thickened (see Cook's Notes, below). Add the feta to the tray, turn the heat up to 220 ºC, fan on, and blast for another 5-10 minutes, or until the feta is soft and bubbling. Drizzle with a little fruity olive oil, scatter over the mint or basil leaves, and serve immediately, with hunks of bread.

Serves 6 as a side dish; 4 as a main course. 

Cook's Notes
  • The tomatoes need to cook down slowly to a deep, intense sauce. If the sauce seems watery, leave the veggies to bake for a little longer.
  • This dish needs a topping of young herb leaves, but I advise that you choose just one type of herb, because clean, simple flavours are important here. Mint and basil are good, and it's also lovely with small snippings of fresh dill.  
  • You can bake the dish well ahead of time and keep it, covered, on your counter top. Add the feta wheels when you reheat the tray in a very hot oven. 
  • This is a great served cold as a topping for bruschetta: dollop it onto toasted ciabatta slices and add cheese: nuggets of goat's milk cream cheese, or Parmesan shavings, or milky slices of excellent mozzarella.    


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