The garden has thrown off the orderly rows and neat edging so carefully imposed just four weeks ago and has burst into the higgledy piggledy tangly fantastic that is the autumn vege patch in its natural state; intoxicatingly lush and fruitful. Russian sunflowers tower over the purple bush beans, heads bowed with the weight of their giant flowers. Twice daily picking can’t keep up with the cherry tomatoes and finally, after a mostly cool summer, just nine eggplant bushes produce more than we could hope to consume (but steeped in salt then red wine vinegar before preserved in olive oil and chilli, they make the best pasta sauce standby). And zucchini…I never thought I’d say this, but zucchini has been one of the stand out foods of the garden this year, as we finally realised that the most addictively delicious way to eat it is…raw!
We really enjoyed this dish at the recent Kitchen Harvest and Sunday Table, where we served it with handmade orecchiette. This is one of those deceptively simple dishes that relies on the freshest of ingredients; if you ever needed a reason to grow your own garlic, this is it (a neighbour of mine harvested more than 100 heads from a single tractor tyre bed this year – if you don’t already, surely there’s room somewhere for a few cloves to go in this winter)?
(Picture by the lovely Pip Compton)
IngredientsSERVES 4 AS A SALAD, 6 WHEN COMBINED WITH PASTA
2 small to medium sized Lebanese zucchini (or other pale skinned variety)
A handful of young and tender green beans, optional (I use the heirloom variety 'Dragon's Tongue Climbing'. In fact this is the only bean I grow these days; in my opinion none of the other varieties come close to matching it in flavour, tenderness and productivity. Plant some!)
2 very generous handfuls of basil (Genovese if you have it growing in the garden; this variety makes thes best pesto)
A large handful of raw almonds, the freshest you can find (they need to still be crunchy)
4 or 5 peeled cloves of new season garlic (our fave variety for this dish is 'Glamour')
Marinated goats cheese fetta (Meedith Dairy do a lovely one)
Cut the zucchini into thin matchsticks. Combine with the beans (no need to top and tail if they are fresh), toss with a little lemon juice and set aside.
Place the basil in a large mortar and pestle along with the almonds, the garlic, sea salt and olive oil and pound until the almonds are broken up but still in pieces and the basil is crushed rather than pulped. It is important not to reduce the pesto to a traditional paste otherwise you will lose the sweetness that sits at the forefront of this dish. Check for seasoning and set aside.
Cook the pasta of your choice and mix half the pesto through the cooked pasta. Add the zucchini/bean mix and toss through pasta with the rest of the pesto. You may need to add a little more olive oil. Serve with lemon juice and small chunks of marinated goats fetta.
We have also served this dish as a salad (just skip the pasta and instead mix the pesto through the zucchini and beans). It is quite spectacular!