The Musette: beignets de fleurs de courgettes

Went down to my local market this morning and all the vegetable stall holders had beautiful golden courgette flowers. I first ate these stuffed many, many years ago at a Father’s Day Luncheon at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons – such a delight. Since moving to France this is one of my favourite summer treats, despite them being deep fried! I bought some and rushed home to prepare them for lunch.

 

Ingredients (12 pieces, starter for 4 hungry cyclists or main course for 2)

  • 20g (3/4 oz) aquafaba or 1 large egg yolk
  • 125g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
  • 175ml (3/4 cup) ice-cold sparkling water
  • 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • pinch sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 courgette (zucchini) flowers

Method

1. Firstly, if necessary, separate the flowers from each courgette and check them for insects, remove the stamens, cut any large ones in two, and set them all aside. Save the courgettes (zucchini) for another dish, another day.

2. Heat a 10cm/1 litre (4 cups) depth of oil in a suitable deep, heavy-based saucepan until it registers 140°C (285°F) on a frying thermometer.

3. In the meantime, make the batter: sift the flour and  turmeric together and add the salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the aquafaba, olive oil and sparkling water. The batter should be quite light.

4. Cook 2–4 courgette flowers at a time, depending on their size and the diameter of your pan: dip the flowers into the batter to coat, then carefully lower them into the hot oil. Deep-fry for 1– 2 minutes, until puffed up, crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with lemon wedges and, if you like, a spicy sauce. I love Sriracha mayonnaise (vegan mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha sauce)!

The Musette: honey baked feta cheese

This is the third and last of Marcus Waring’s recipes which I’m trying from his New Classics cookery book this month. Of course, it won’t be the last recipe of his that I try. I have all of his cookery books and they’re big favourites of mine.

This is a very versatile vegetarian dish. You could serve this as a starter, lunch-time main course or before dessert – we are in France – for a different take on the cheese course. However you decide to serve it, this simple dish of creamy, tangy feta grilled until melting and slightly crisp is transformed thanks to heady, fragrant lavender and fresh thyme. The homemade rye crisps served alongside are great for dipping and scooping into the melted cheese, and are incredibly simple to make – all you need is half a loaf of rye bread and a garlic clove!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a cheese course or starter)

  • 200g (7oz) feta cheese
  • 1/2 loaf rye bread
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 fat garlic clove, halved
  • 2 tbsp runny lavender honey
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, take off leaves
  • 2 lavender sprigs, or 1/2 tsp dried lavender
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/(400°F)/gas mark 6.

2. Cover the feta with kitchen paper and leave at room temperature for at least an hour to absorb all the excess moisture.

3. Cut the bread into very thin slices. Place them in a single layer on 2 baking trays. Brush with the olive oil and rub each slice with a halved garlic clove.

4. Bake the bread in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes until lightly golden and crisp.

5. Remove the bread, keeping it warm, and turn the oven to its grill setting.

6. Remove the kitchen paper from the cheese and place the feta in an ovenproof dish just large enough for it to fit snugly. Drizzle the honey on top, then add the thyme and lavender. Season well with salt and pepper and grill for 5–10 minutes until golden and bubbling.

7. Remove the cheese from the grill. Serve the feta immediately with the bread crisps.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The feta is the star of the show. Buy it from a cheese shop rather than packaged from a supermarket. I’ve tried both and it does make a difference.

2. Marcus’s recipe calls for rye bread and I understand why; it’s got a closed tight texture. I’ve tried it with spelt and sour dough, both were fine though it does help if the bread’s not fresh. Or you could use store-bought rye crackers.

3. Marcus’s recipe uses 4 tbsp of honey which we found to be too much and I’ve reduced it to 2 tbsp.

4. Don’t overdo the lavender or the cheese will taste soapy – not ideal!

5. You do need to use fresh thyme, dried won’t cut it here.