Courgettes are in season in September and are extremely versatile vegetables. I particularly like this recipe which is typical of the south of France because it can be made as a main meal, and easily keeps as next-day leftovers or frozen for a future meal.
Brandade is a way to prepare salted cod in the south of France. It can be made as a “parmentier”, a type of fish shepard’s pie with potatoes. Alternatively, it can be made in the style of the city of Nimes, where it is prepared as a kind of creamy fish-based spread often served as an appetiser on toast but also used in other dishes, such as in this recipe. I’ve decided to use courgettes here but this recipe can also be made with courgette flowers, for an extra special occasion.
To make this recipe easier, quicker and milk-free, I use a simplified version of brandade which doesn’t involve actual salted cod and the 24 hours of soaking required. I personally like to use organic butter but you can easily make this with just olive oil. And if you want a vegan alternatively use nuts or rice (or a combination of the two) instead of the fish.
Serves 4-6 people
- 4-5 medium long courgettes or 6-8 round courgettes
- 400g of cod filet, cubed
- 3-4 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
- 3-4 shallots or 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 small leek, chopped
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- olive oil
- a glass of white wine
- water for boiling
- several tablespoons of organic butter (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes and 2-3 garlic cloves and a bay leaf for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain but keep some of the cooking water aside.
- With a potato masher, crush, then cream the potatoes with olive oil (or butter or a combination of both) and a bit of the remaining water but don’t make it too watery. Also don’t overdo the creaming of the potatoes or they could become gluey (this also depends on the potato variety so choose one specially for mashed potatoes). Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Filling and Courgettes
- With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Wash and halve the long courgettes or take a top portion (about 2 cm thick) off the round courgettes. Scoop out the insides, leaving about 1.5 cm of the courgette in there. Chop the inside scooped part of the courgette. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the shallots, the leek and 2-3 cloves of garlic until translucent and soft in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the fish cubes, the bay leaf and 2 tablespoons of additional olive oil (or 2 tbsp of the butter). Increase the heat a little and let the outside of the fish cubes whiten for a few minutes, turning them so they get evenly cooked. Add the wine, salt and pepper. Lower the heat and allow the wine to evaporate and the fish to cook through. Using a fork, pick apart the fish cubes so they become flaked pieces. Once the fish is cooked through, take it off the stove and set aside – it should not be dry but rather have some cooking liquid left in it.
- In a large bowl, mix the mashed potatoes and fish together. Spread the mix into the courgette shells. I usually cook the courgettes for 15 minutes or so before stuffing them, covering them with some cooking paper. Ensure that they are still a little hard, take them out of the oven and add the fish mash mix.
- Bake for (an additional) 20 minutes. If you have not precooked the courgettes you may need to cook them for longer. Finish under the broiler, if you want a little crusty top. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.