Sweet notes to savour

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Nigel Slater takes a look at sumptuous sweetly roasted courgettes and a truly luxurious hot pudding.

The courgettes are roasting sweetly in the oven, half of them for lunch today dressed with sultanas, pine kernels and honey, the rest to serve as a salad tomorrow. This is something I also do with aubergines, red onions and sweet potatoes.

There are so many vegetables to roast right now: courgettes and summer squashes, young leeks and summer carrots. Bunches of early beetroot barely bigger than a golf ball. For the hot roasts I will add soft, pale ricotta, or perhaps a basil-scented pesto to toss them in. For the cool versions tomorrow (they are better kept out of the fridge), I will tumble jagged rocks of feta among the vegetables, pieces of smoked trout or wedges of lightly cooked, golden-yolked eggs.

Water-rich vegetables, such as courgettes, need a flat baking sheet and a blast in a hot oven to roast if they are to brown appetisingly. Too low a setting or a deep-sided dish and they will steam in their own juices and refuse to even slightly caramelise. A dish like this stands or falls on its sweetly toasted flesh. You could grill them instead, although I would lightly oil them first, then dress with the honey and herbs once they come off the grill. Do it while they are still hot from the pan so they soak up the sticky dressing.

As summer cools a little, a hot pudding is almost bound to be welcome, and it seems daft not to use seasonal fruit around now. Plums, apricots, greengages and all the berries and currants are still at their best. I tossed late, dark-skinned cherries into an almondy batter this week to give a warm, light finish to summer’s dinner that had, frankly, been on the chilly side. I could have used larger stone fruit such as plums cut into thick slices. They work well, but cherries have something of an affinity with such puddings. Try spooning sour cherry jam and double cream over a standard Yorkshire pudding and you will get my drift.

Tossing the fruit in brandy seems an odd process for someone who rarely uses alcohol in baking, but its warmth was exactly what was needed, and the smell of fruit, sweet batter and brandy was gorgeous on a chilly summer evening.

Honey-roasted courgettes, ricotta

Roasted courgettes can be seasoned with garlic and smoky paprika and served with ricotta. Add halves of lemon at the table. Cook the courgettes on a tray and you’ll get a firmer, more toasted result than if you cook them in a deep-sided baking dish. Use a palette knife to turn them once, so they caramelise a little on both sides. To veganise the recipe, use agave or date syrup in place of honey.

Makes enough for 4


4 medium courgettes

2 Tbsp honey

6 Tbsp olive oil

3 tsp dried mint

2 Tbsp thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp ground paprika

50g golden sultanas

1 Tbsp pine kernels

250g ricotta


Set the oven to 220°C. Remove the stalks from the courgettes, then cut each in half lengthways and then again. Put the courgettes on an oven tray. In a bowl, mix together the honey, olive oil, mint and a grinding of black pepper. No salt yet. Finely chop the thyme leaves. Peel and crush the garlic to a paste then stir the thyme and garlic into the honey and oil.

Pour the dressing over the courgettes, toss them well, then roast for 20-25 minutes till the courgettes are tender and toasted, turning once during cooking. Remove from the oven and season with the ground paprika, a generous crumbling of sea salt, the sultanas and the pine kernels. Return to the oven for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and serve with the ricotta.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Cherry and almond batter pudding

As much as I relish tearing apart and sharing an entire roasting tin of Yorkshire pudding, I also rather enjoy having an individual one to myself. It is much the same with sweet batter puddings such as the classic clafoutis, which feel particularly charming when made individually: a jewel-studded crown in which to float a puddle of golden cream.

You can bake your pudding in an earthenware or china dish as tradition suggests, although I get the best results from using a shallow metal dish. I have used cherries, but you could also use small yellow plums, apricots (quartered, stoned and sugared) and blueberries. Not everyone puts ground almonds in their puddings, but I find the subtle almond notes pleasing. Adjust the cooking time slightly depending on the size of your dish.

Serves 4-6


350g cherries

4 Tbsp brandy

½ tsp (optional) almond extract

125ml milk

125ml double cream

50g plain flour

3 lightly heaped Tbsp ground almonds

100g caster sugar

2 large eggs

butter and sugar for dusting


You will need a wide ovenproof dish approximately 25-30cm in diameter.

Remove the stalks and stones from the cherries, then put the fruit in a mixing bowl with the brandy and almond extract then toss briefly and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put a baking sheet in the oven.

Make the batter: warm the milk and cream in a small pan, remove from the heat and set aside. Mix together the flour, almonds and sugar and add a pinch of salt. Using a whisk, beat in the eggs together with the warm cream and milk.

Lightly butter the dish, then dust with a little sugar, tipping out any surplus. Place the cherries, drained of their brandy, in the dish, pour the custard over them then bake for about 25-30 minutes until the edges have risen and the batter is pale gold. The middle should quiver gently when the dish is shaken lightly. Serve with cream. — Guardian News and Media