Recipe of the week: Baked courgettes with cream and Comté breadcrumbs
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A wonderful vegetarian main course by British chef Laura Pope, this can be served with a simple green salad or sliced tomatoes, or it makes an unctuous side dish. Small courgettes are rendered utterly delicious baked in cream until they are sticky, topped with Comté and garlicky, herby breadcrumbs.
Ingredients (serves four)
80g fresh bread (or fresh breadcrumbs if you have any)
100g medium or older aged Comté, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed/minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves (if you cannot find this, use marjoram or thyme)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
350g small courgettes, halved lengthways (or quartered, if larger)
250ml double cream
To make your breadcrumbs: cut or tear the bread into pieces (you can keep the crust on if it is not too dark) and blitz these in a food processor or hand blender until you have coarse breadcrumbs. It is worth making extra to freeze for another time.
Preheat your oven to 180C fan.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, oregano, three tablespoons of the olive oil, quarter teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, then set aside.
Place the courgettes in a large oven-proof dish that fits them all in a snug, single layer. Pour over the cream and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, then season with salt (about a quarter of a teaspoon, but this will vary according to taste and the age of the Comté – the older, generally, the saltier) and plenty of black pepper. Lay the slices of Comté on top of the courgettes, then sprinkle over the breadcrumb mixture and put the dish in the middle of the oven.
Bake for about 25 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, the cream has reduced and is bubbling around the edges, and the courgettes are tender and cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for at least five minutes before serving.