Adapted from Honey and Co: Food from the Middle East
This is a recipe of favourites. This cookbook is possibly one of my favourite cookbooks, from one of my favourite restaurants, and Instagram feeds. And as you know, risotto is one of my favourite things to eat, lemon is my favourite flavour, and courgettes are fast becoming one of my favourite vegetables. So it is an all-round win.
The preamble to this recipe is also probably one of the best in all of my cookbooks. It makes it hard to write this blog to be honest, because I don’t have a really charming story about vegetarian BDSM, or at least, not one that I want to share as publicly.
It’s a simple recipe – usually I am so guilty of over-complicating, and taking things too far. But with this recipe I have held back - I haven’t added anything to it, other than tinkering with the quantities. I considered adding garlic, or preserved lemon, or toasted almonds, but it is so good just like this. And also otherwise all of my food would probably taste the same.
This recipe seems complicated but it is actually really easy. I always appreciate recipes that you can just leave in the oven to do their thing, and that can be left hot for a while without getting ruined. I’ve made this quite a few times now. It is vegan and gluten-free without being obviously or annoyingly so, and uncomplicated enough that it will supplement any other dishes being served.
Serves 5 - 6 as a main meal, or a generous 8 if serving with other dishes too
5 – 6 even-sized courgettes, as straight as possible (depending on how big they are, and how big your tray is – see below)
2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, or two large echalion shallots, finely diced
1 tsp (level) each of cinnamon, allspice and turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper
225g risotto rice
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
6-10 cherry tomatoes, halved (you could also use a few roughly chopped big tomatoes, but it won’t look as fancy)
1 small bunch of parsley, pick out the large stalks and chop medium-fine
You will need a roasting tray with high sides for this one. Slice the courgettes in half lengthways and use a teaspoon to scoop the seeds out, creating a hollow. This is a very satisfying activity. Line them all up in the roasting tray (how many courgette boats will fit in the tray may also affect how many you make).
Pre-heat your oven to 200c, or 180c if you have a fan oven.
Heat the oil in a very large frying pan, turn the heat down low and add the shallots. Fry for a few minutes and then add the spices. Fry gently for a few minutes and then add the rice and stir to coat and toast slightly. Add the currants, lemon and water, season with a teaspoon of salt, and turn the heat up. Let the rice boil for about a minute, and then empty the frying pan into a colander sitting over a large bowl – keeping the rice and all the liquid. Mix the cherry tomatoes and parsley into the rice.
Use a spoon to distribute the rice evenly between all of the courgette boats, and then carefully pour the liquid into the tray around the courgettes. The liquid should come roughly halfway up the sides, so add a little more if you think it needs it, but be aware that the courgettes will also release a lot of liquid. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on top of the courgettes, and then seal completely with foil (the greaseproof paper helps them to steam). Bake in the oven for about an hour – you can check them halfway through the cooking to see if they need a baste, but its also fine to just leave them to do their thing. And that's it!