I was talking about the annual, and imminent, onslaught of courgettes to an allotment friend as I pruned a mature and unruly grape vine that she had inherited with her allotment extension (committee approved). I told her that I had gathered an impressive array of recipes but that courgettes still always overwhelmed me. She immediately came back with:
“You should spiralise them with pesto!”
Whilst I sort of understood all the individual words in this statement, when put together in this order, actually in any order, I was confused.
“I should do what?”
“Spiralise them with a new gadget. You put the vegetable in and turn a handle and it slices it up!”
“What like a knife does?”
“You can make spaghetti from courgettes!” she continued, expertly ignoring me.
“And why would I want to”
“So that you can eat them with pesto!”
“I’m glad we sorted that one out”
Cooking gadgets appear now and then, which people talk about, and everybody wants one, and I always think that perhaps I should get one too. The shops have them in stock, there are adverts everywhere, and eBay fills up with them, for about 3 months.
Experience has shown that if you weather the storm, and wait about nine months, then the very same gadgets will begin to appear in charity shops, at car boot sales, and on eBay again, sometimes still in their original box, but at least a tenth of the original price.
Fondue sets led the way decades ago and still wonderfully appear now and then, at car boot sales, sometimes unused and still in their 1980’s packaging. More lately there have been potato ricers, pointless circular bits of ceramic for cooking pizzas on, oven chip mesh, salad spinners, technologically amazing corkscrews that don’t work, lumps of wood with holes in so you can measure spaghetti accurately because it would be a disaster if you got it wrong, special spoons, special spatulas, must have, copper bottom pans, knives which can cut through a tin can, knives made by a samurai, knife sharpeners which don’t work but scratch all your expensive shiney knives, perfect egg boiling devices but which still involve a pan of boiling hot water, bamboo steamers, things which famous celebrities (you don’t even like, and who are not known for cooking) swear by, things made of silicone, etc. And there are also those “I’ve seen them on the telly so they must be alright” items.
So normally I would wait for local, and slightly angry reviews from gullible friends, but so many sensible people mentioned spiralisers, and more importantly, instantly and enthusiastically shared their recipes, that I decided to look into it. Nobody ever shared their favourite fondue recipe did they? Not unless they enjoyed having their friends make fun of them for 3 hours, and accuse them of being middle class.
The decision to do casual non-digital research was initially a mistake because I ended up coming out of my local cooking gadget shop with one of these things in my rucksack, and shaking my head. Was this going to be a repeat of the plastic sweet corn prongs debacle?
I’m not sure how it happened. I had walked around the shop for a few minutes looking for something hand held, plastic, brightly coloured, and with a hole in one end of it because that is what I had, without the benefit of engineering drawings, visualised. I looked in the places I expected it to be, on racks and on revolving hook things where cheap plastic gadgets from China, bubble wrapped in plastic, might be found. Eventually the lady behind the counter smiled at me (again) and so I surrendered.
“I give up, where are the spiralisers?”
Without breaking eye contact she casually pointed to the display right beside her on the counter, the only place I hadn’t looked. Even if I had looked I would have ignored what I saw because what she was pointing at what looked like a miniature version of a roasting spit, but maybe for a starling, or a hamster.
I went for a closer look, and a touch (a huge mistake), and a revolution or two, and discovered that a spiraliser is in fact the culinary equivalent of a wood turning lathe and would, in my opinion, benefit from a name change to ‘vegetable lathe’. They lured me towards purchase by mentioning the interchangeable blades. Blokes love interchangeable blades. We chatted about courgettes for a while and then they expertly closed the deal by mentioning the choice of colours, which were green or maroon. I enthusiastically chose green, because maroon isn’t a proper colour, and I was pleased, at the time, to helpfully point that out to the staff.
And so I bought one.
After a public declaration of ownership, I braced myself for sniggers and rolling eyes.
But nobody laughed at me.
Instead several spiraliser suggestions unexpectedly came from different directions. It was like joining the Masons.
Courgette spaghetti, as it’s known
It has proved to be a marvellous way to get rid of surplus vegetables, and I am more than happy to admit, in public, that I own one (and a selection of interchangeable blades).
Potato makes excellent ‘Chip Worms’ (see below)
The only thing I worry about is that I don’t think ‘sprialiser’ is a proper word, and maybe my mate made it up. Neither do I accept that ‘spiralising’ is an acceptable description of what one does with a spiraliser, however some of the alternatives are even worse, e.g. ‘spaghetti-iser’ and ‘spaghetto-matic’ (I made that one up).
Carrot – good for salads, soups or stews
If you are short of cash then wait for a bit. There’ll be a few around soon, very cheap, because people who don’t normally eat vegetables are buying them in the hope that this device will suddenly, and effortlessly, transform their lard based diet for them (possibly combined with a celebrity fitness video, and motivated by an imminent holiday booking, or an online dating sign-up where they will describe themselves as ‘cuddly’).
I include a few simple recipes here and will add more to the list as I get around to trying them out, and possibly a few pictures as I take them.
Let me know if you have any good recipes. We cuddly people should stick together.
note: I have subsequently discovered that there are many different spiraliser designs and there are indeed cheap plastic ones with a hole in one end (but they aren’t as manly as a vegetable lathe with interchangeable blades).
RECIPES ideas so far
– courgette spaghetti and pesto
– courgette and carrot with mint
Garlic Mushrooms and Courgette Spaghetti – Fry the mushrooms as normal and add the courgette spaghetti as soon as the mushrooms begin to fry. I use a mixture of butter and oil, butter for flavour and oil to stop the butter burning.
Chicken Stock Courgette – A small amount of chicken stock will do because the courgette spaghetti, as it cooks, will release its moisture, adding to both the volume and the flavour. Bring the stock to the boil and drop a large quantity of courgette spaghetti into it, and be ready to add more, as it shrinks down during cooking. If you can add a few pieces of chopped bacon, or a handful of freshly picked peas then all the better. The courgette takes on the flavour of the stock.
Steamed Fish – A great survival, or backwoodsman’s technique is to wrap fish in wet seaweed, and then wrap the lot in a large leaf (e.g. butterbur) before cooking on embers or in a fire pit. The moisture from the seaweed steams the fish and the seaweed protects the fish from burning, and if you choose a palatable seaweed (e.g. carragheen, sea lettuce, bladder wrack ) then it is also edible as a vegetable accompaniment.
We can do the same by using courgette spaghetti in place of the seaweed. Put any fish, or seafood, on a bed of courgette spaghetti and smear the top of the fish with a sauce of your choice e.g. pesto, tomato puree, salsa, dill sauce, home made chutneys, etc. or sprinkle with herbs. No oil required. Wrap in tin foil and put in a hot oven for 10 -20 minutes, depending on size and type of fish, and the efficiency of your oven. The moisture given up by the courgette will steam the contents, and all the flavours will combine and be taken up by the courgette. When using strongly flavoured seafood like prawns there’s no need to add any sauce. You could also mix in herbs of your choice in with the courgette before cooking (e.g. dill or fennel, but I also like parsley).
A piece of salmon lounging on a bed of courgette, and awaiting its flavoursome sauce.
This also works with dim sum instead of fish.
Individual portions are visually surprising when unwrapped in front of the guests. They love it.
Good on a bar-b-q.
Chip Worms – Well that’s what I call them but they’ve probably got a fancy French name. Deep fried potato spaghetti. Cut long threads and gather into small balls. On hitting the oil or fat these will flatten and solidify into little basket bases onto which you can artistically pile or pour other things. Obviously this is theoretical as I don’t do anything artistic with my food, but chip worm butties are alright. Big kids, and small ones love them too.
Floddies – see floddies article >
Any Soup – Because you can turn out vegetable spaghetti more easily than you can chop vegetables into tiny pieces and a few stringy bits (culinary term) floating on top makes it look nice.
Courgette and Lettuce Soup – good because it uses up surplus lettuce too (I always seed too much)
Vegetable Stock – A selection of spiralised vegetables breaks down easily when boiled and forms a good stock quickly. Throw a few handfuls into a stew to add to the flavour and texture.