I have been trying to get my hands on courgette flowers since forever. Well, actually, to this extent, since my 21st birthday meal in April. You see, my sister booked us a table at a quaint vegetarian restaurant in Hammersmith called The Gate. None of us had ever heard of it before, let alone been there, it was merely the result of a Google search. It was a nightmare to find, mainly because we didn’t know the area at all so any directions on a major one way gyratory roundabout surrounding the tube station and various other buildings, were not all that helpful to four lost, tired, hungry women on foot.
However, we got a grip and we found it after not all that long. But once we got to the address; 51 Queen Caroline Street. We thought we’d really lost the plot. Where was the restaurant then? Lo and behold, we venture in further. There was the restaurant, sharing its front door with and operating above, a religious establishment. It felt unusual at first, especially when we entered the dining room that was not much bigger than my living room (not big by the way), but the buzz, tables full of customers and amazing aroma soon settled any fears. These unexpected attributes are just some of the outstanding qualities of this place.
The food was incredible. Serving an array of vegetarian dishes using local, seasonal ingredients with vegan and gluten-free options. It is here that I tasted my first ever courgette flower stuffed and fried in batter and it was amazing. I had the veganized version with the most amazing thick, creamy ‘mayonnaise/sour cream’ alternative I have ever come across and bags of flavour and textures. Sadly, it is no longer on their changing with the seasons menu.
Trying to track courgette flowers down locally to attempt to reproduce the dish was not easy. In fact, not possible. I called local farms and nurseries, I was either too late or they wouldn’t sell them as the flowers die so quickly after picking. An attempt to grow my own without chemicals failed as the local garden fiends had a good old feast. So, I kind of gave up the hunt, thought I’d try growing again, organically in a grow house later. But hey, there’s no truer saying that it’s not what you know but who you know. Mat happened to tell a good friend Eddie about my quest and sure enough, he said he had tonnes of flowering plants in pots at home. Next day, they were in my hands. How excited was I! Now, these were the male flowers, without the little courgettes at the end. I was baffled at first, but a bit of research taught me this. I ordered a little growhouse and have replanted them in there, in the hope that they fruit. Anyway, picking my own courgette flower and cooking it within minutes was extremely satisfying, and I can’t wait for more!
I also battered a small punnet of various edible flowers I had along with the courgette flowers, they were so pretty and all had great flavours and textures. Even Mat loved them!
The filling I used was adapted from Riverford Organic, but I halved it as I didn’t have many flowers to fill, skipped the parmesan, lemon, and used soya yoghurt in place of the creme fraiche and ricotta, and I used a good handful of fresh parsley and chives from the windowsill. Next time I will use the lemon, I simply didn’t have one to hand. I did, however just find this, the magical recipe from The Gate for their amazing courgette flowers. Its like gold, I can’t wait to pick more flowers!
The batter I used is from here and was really light and crisp. Make sure the oil is nice and hot (190c) so that what you’re frying doesn’t soak up oil. You don’t need tonnes of oil for this, about 4cm in a deep-frying pan is fine, just turn the flowers to brown both sides.