Courgette Boats Sailing in a Sea of Green Beans
So, we start with, you guessed it, courgettes. We had a great crop this year, plus some cherry tomatoes, beans, garlic, sunflowers and the odd carrot. The rice, salt and pepper, vinegar and olive oil are bought, but I'm sure you can forgive these (organic of course). Generally we like to pick the courgettes when they're not too big as they start to turn into marrows. A medum size works well for this creation, about 20-30cm in length. Ingredients we used are as follows:
Green Beans (Runner or French Beans)
Hot water or Vegetable Stock
Juice of a lemon
-Risotto Rice (Aborio) or Cous-Cous
-Salt & Pepper
-Parmesan cheese (optional)
Of course you can substitute or add ingredients, be creative!
Start by pre-heating an oven to about 200 degrees. While it's heating, add some oil to a pan and fry a couple of onions, diced, until they are translucent. At this point you can get the kids involved by halving the courgettes lengthways and getting them to take out the seeds with a spoon. This is fairly easy to do. Don't top and tail the courgettes as you want them to keep their shape.
Add diced carrots or bell peppers (read: any veg) to the pan, along with a healthy amount of garlic (my kids love it!). After a few minutes, add the rice to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes. Gradually add hot stock, a little at a time, to the rice and KEEP IT MOVING. This is where the kids come in again as they can stir while you add the stock. Essentially, you're making a risotto.
Keep adding small ammounts of stock or water until the rice stops taking it up, usually about 15 minutes, but you want the rice to be quite al dente, so a little undercooked (the mouth is best used in determining this), and the mixture a little more liquid than you would normally serve a risotto as it will lose moisture in the oven. Season to taste. I like to mix cooked lentils, green or red, with the risotto as the combination of rice and lentils are an excellent source of complete protien (this recipie is entirely vegetarian). You can also substitute cous-cous for the rice and generally add whatever veg you have, diced works best :) At this point, add the cherry tomatoes, halved, and any fresh herbs you have (chives!) and/or the juice of half a lemon (only if you're NOT using parmesan cheese in the next step).
The kids can then spoon this mix into the hollowed out courgette boats (as generously as they like) and sail them into a lightly oiled baking tray (high sided is best) which is then covered and baked for 10-12 minutes. After 10-12 minutes, remove the cover and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. I like to sprinkle a mixture of seeds (sunflower this year) or nuts and grated parmesan cheese over the boats before putting them back in the oven. Get the kids to bash the seeds/nuts and grated cheese up together in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder until the mix resembles coarse bread crumbs. Don't be too fussy here. If you're going to use cheese, it's best to leave out the lemon in the risotto mix as the two really don't work together.
While the boats are in the oven, blanch the beans in salted boiling water for a couple of minutes (you could also use peas). If they're straight out of the garden you should only need to top them, and generally the kids can just snap them off with their fingers, so no need for a knife. Strain the beans and dress with a mixture of olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar and some more of the seed mix. You should now be ready to serve! Remove the boats from the oven.
Layer the beans on a plate or a big platter to make the sea (we made a spanish armada) and nestle a boat/s into the beans. To complete the boats you can add a mast in the centre; a bamboo bbq skewer works well, as do bread sticks, even long carrot or celery sticks as long as they are fresh. A sail can be made out of a lettuce leaf or cabbage leaf.
As implied above, you don't need to have all the ingredients listed, and quantities vary with yield. These are merely what we used at the time. Just take the idea and run with it. You could use bell peppers or aubergine to make the boats and the filling is entirely variable. The sea doesn't have to be beans, it could be peas, mashed potato (if you boil the potatos with beetroot you will have a purple sea!) or anything you like. The important thing is to be creative and have fun!