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It's a wrap - we're on to Z

Last, but by no means least, we're on to Z. Talking zucchini, zest and zatar


Zucchini


Known as the Summer squash - it's absolutely delicious. And such a versatile vegetable you can use in both sweet and savoury settings. Their flowers are delicious stuffed and fried too!

Also known as a courgette and is part of the family alongside cucumbers, melons and spaghetti squash.


It is such a lovely vegetable and incredibly versatile as it can be used in a variety of ways from ribbons in salads, to grated in fritters, and slow roasted as a side to any dish.

It also makes muffins and baked goods incredibly moist.


There are several varieties of zucchini - as such they range in colour from deep yellow, to dark green and many shades in between.


Health benefits of zucchini

  1. Zucchini contains a huge number of vitamins, minerals and nutritious plant compounds.

Interestingly - cooked zucchini contains more vitamin A than raw zucchini.


2. High in antioxidants. As I've mentioned previously, antioxidants are great for helping to protect your body from damage from free radicals.

Zucchini are rich in carotenoids - these are beneficial for the eye, skin and heart health and have also been shown to show some sort of protection against certain cancers such as prostate cancer.

In zucchini, it is the skin that harbours most of the carotenoids and the yellow varieties are supposed to contain a little more than the green varieties.


3. Zucchini can help aid digestion.

Due to being high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, and holding a high water content, zucchini can be beneficial at aiding gut health.

First to soften stools, secondly to help pass food through your gut more easily and lastly to nourish your gut bacteria.


4. Zucchini could help improve heart health

It has been proven that people consume more fibre are less likely to get heart disease.

Zucchini also has high levels of potassium which has been shown to help lower high blood pressure by opening blood vessels. Lower blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.


There are many other potential benefits from consuming zucchini such as aiding bone health, anti-cancer properties and helping to stabilise thyroid levels.


Delicious ways we can add zucchini in to our diet


1. Salads

There are infinite ways we can add zucchini in to our diet through salads.


- Grate zucchini and add to a coleslaw - making it even more vibrant and varied.

- Use a potato peeler to peel in to thin strips then the salad options are endless:

- dress with a lemony dressing and add in toasted walnuts and a soft tangy cheese like ricotta or feta.

- mix with strips of cucumber, shavings of pecorino cheese, handfuls of rocket, lemon zest and a dressing of lemon juice, salt and good quality extra virgin olive oil and loads of fresh basil. Sweet, salty, tangy, delicious.


2. Sliced and roasted

Roasted zucchini is delicious. My favourite way is the most simple - slice in to half cm wide rounds - and then drizzle with cold-pressed rapeseed oil, sprinkle with salt, grind on some black pepper and put in the oven at about 200oC.

Keep a watch and turn them when they start to go golden brown on one side.


These can then be added to salads, rice dishes, tossed with other roasted vegetables, eaten in wraps with hummus, added to any fish, meat or veggie dish or eaten just on their own. They're utterly delicious.


3. Added to stews, bolognaises or Mediterranean one-pots

A great way to bulk out dishes is to add vegetables to them. Things like bolognaise are always delicious laden with veggies including zucchini, and mushrooms and other veggies and if you're on a tight budget they're a great way to help reduce meat content in the recipe.


4. In baking

You can use zucchini in baking in things such as muffins and cakes. You can add to carrot cakes, make a cake solely using zucchini or add even in to banana cakes.

It is delicious used in a baking as not only does it add extra nutrition and bulk out the recipe, but it also adds a lovely texture and increased moisture to the cake.

It also pairs well flavour-wise with everything from cinnamon to chocolate.


5. In fritters /rosti

Zucchini are so delicious added in to fritters or rostis. They make a lovely pairing for potatoes and also carrots.


Here is a recipe for zucchini rosti from the infamous Nigel Slater.

Image credit: https://www.theguardian.com/food


Zest

When we take the tangy outside rind of any citrus fruit for an ingredients through either grating or cutting we get zest.

Zest is a lovely ingredient and is the very outer, coloured part of any citrus fruit.

It contains all of the oils which is often why it is so fragrant.


Zest can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes and often comes from oranges, lemons or limes or indeed grapefruits.


It can be used to infuse syrups, batters or indeed milks or creams when it comes to puddings.


Zest is a great lifter of any dish.

It can also be used as a great decorator on dishes such as on the top of a cake icing.


Zest including rind is also used when it comes to making Paddington's favourite food, marmalade!


Quick eats: Easy 3 citrus marmalade

Marmalade is certainly one of the most delicious things to pile of butter laden toast. And best of all, it's incredibly easy to make your own at home and it tastes a million times better than the shop bought rubbish piled with thickener.

Marmalade is commonly made from Seville oranges (as a word of caution - you wouldn't want to try and eat a Seville orange! But you can also make it from other citrus fruits too. And a combination of a few in this recipe is really delicious.

So remember to save your jars rather than recycling


Ingredients:

Grapefruit

Lemon

Orange (Seville if possible)

Granulated Sugar


When making marmalade - choose the thickness of the peel you'd like to eat - if you like it chunky - keep it chunky, but if you like smaller bits, chop it finely in to smaller shreds.


Use this Waitrose recipe to stock the store cupboard or share the jars as lovely gifts to friends any time of the year.

Follow the method here.


Quick eats: Lemon infused panna cotta

Probably one of my favourite puddings. So simple and SO tasty and always a good crowd pleaser!

It's delicate and light and the lemon tartness really cuts through the rich cream.

It's also super quick and easy to make. Just remember it needs time to set.


Ingredients:

Double cream

Leaf gelatine (I always find leaf gelatine works best but you could also use powered)

Milk (full-fat)

Caster sugar

1 vanilla pod

Lemon zest


Method:

  • Soak the sheets of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.

  • Add the milk and cream in to a pan and add the sugar and vanilla seeds (you can either use a pod which you cut in half, scrape the seeds out of and then put everything in to the pan, or you can use vanilla bean paste.

  • Zest your lemon - the best way to do this is using a potato peeler - make sure you do the whole lemon.

  • Stir to mix together and slowly bring to a simmer, before removing from the heat.

  • Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze out the excess liquid. Add to the hot milk mixture. Stir until completely dissolved.

  • Pour into four ramekins, then place in the fridge for few hours until set.

  • To serve - slide a thin knife round the edge of the ramekin, and then dip the ramekin base in a bowl of warm water to loosen the panna cotta.

  • Place a plate over the top of the ramekin and turn it upside down to serve.

It's delicious served with warmed raspberry compote or any sort of berries.


Zatar

Zatar is delicious.


It's an authentic Middle-Eastern spice blend that can be used to pep up lots of dishes; meat, fish or veggie.


You can also mix it with a good olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh garlic it makes a delicious, juicy, lip-smackingly tasty marinade for chicken (or anything for that matter!)


Think sesame, herbs, dried coriander, cumin and sumac - a combination of whole and ground spices to add lovely texture.


It's really easy to make a delicious big batch of zatar which you can then store in a jar or tupperware.


Use this recipe to whip up some at home and then start experimenting with using it in all sorts of dishes. It takes no time at all.

Add to labneh, meatballs, roasted aubergine, baba ganoush, hummus and more.


Quick eats: Za'tar


Ingredients:

Dried thyme (or substitute oregano as an alternative)

Cumin

Coriander

Toasted sesame seeds

Sumac

Salt

Chili flakes (optional)


For a full, authentic method use the recipe here.


Quick Eats: Slow roasted, zatar marinated aubergine

Image credit: https://www.feastingathome.com

This is a really lovely slow roasted aubergine that is given extra flavour by the zatar and goes brilliantly with grains or simply a tasty tomato salad.

It's delicious topped with a lemon & tahini yoghurt too.


It's a really lovely low-calorie mid-week meal too. Super simple and with very little prep work.


Ingredients:

Aubergine

Zatar (homemade or bought)

Olive oil

Garlic

Salt


For the method and additional serving options check out the full recipe here.













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