Food, Sweet
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getting-life-back-under-control courgette gratin

That’s right – this is a gratin that signifies and celebrates life is on the upswing. More or less, anyway. After all, how can anything with dill and cinnamon in it be anything other than spectacular? A new flavour combination for some, to be sure, but trust me on its magnificence. Especially when served with sausages, or perhaps – as we’re going to have it – with prosciutto wrapped chicken breast. As I said, things are on the up.

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to form coherent thoughts about what’s going on. Turns out quitting one’s job, moving to a new city, and creating a new life has its challenges. Whoda thunk? So our move-out date rolled around and everything we owned went to Scotland… without me! It’s all currently stuffed in a storage locker, awaiting liberation. But – happy days – after a substantial dose of stress, hard work and several pages on the calendar rolling past, not only do we now have a flat (almost), but we have a move date (no movers yet) and I have a train ticket north. Huzzah. So a knock out supper is in order.

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I’ve been lucky though; I have been graciously caught mid-freefall by my wonderful family, so although it’s been a bit hellish, I have actually been enduring the stress of the move in a green and leafy countryside cocoon. So, least I can do is cook from time to time (my shallot-butter roast chicken with fennel and potato gratin and homegrown beans with basil vinaigrette went down a treat – recipe to come).

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Tonight’s recipe for gratin is one I’ve made many times – hence the vague instructions – and many times without any official recipe to speak of (from memory in Villefranche de Lonchat is one of my favourites), but regardless of quantities, it always turns out a treat whatever it’s served with. In fact: I could happily eat this on its own. And lick the bowl after.

Courgette Gratin (or: Getting-Life-Back-Under-Control Gratin)
With thanks to the wonderful Elizabeth Bard, Picnic in Provence

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4 – 6 small to medium courgettes
1 medium red onion (or 2-3 shallots)
Small bunch of dill (chopped)
Hearty pinch of cinnamon (don’t be afraid)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lashings of parmesan
And a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil.

Get the oven preheating to 180°C.

Finely slice the courgettes into thin rounds – you can do this with a sharp knife or, for those with a well-stocked kitchen, finely slice using a mandolin or the slicer on a box grater. Plonk into a bowl.

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Dice the red onion (or shallots); make the dice nice and petite. And chop the dill fronds. Add all this to the bowl, and add the salt, pepper, and the hearty pinch of cinnamon.

Finally, toss it all together with a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, making sure all the courgette slices and cubes of onion are coated in the oil and seasonings, and decant into a ovenproof dish. This can be a pie dish, a pyrex lasagne dish or an enamel dish – whatever – but whatever it is, pick one that’s deep and of a small to medium size. Don’t feel the need to arrange the courgettes, they’ll fall into a nice, layered arrangement on their own, but you’ll want a good few layers so it cooks well. Think deep, rather than wide. And, the courgettes will shrink as they cook, too.

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Cook it for an hour. Then sprinkle freshly grated parmesan on and pop under the grill for 3-4 minutes so the top of the gratin gets crisp, golden and delicious. Or, 10 minutes before the end of the hour, add the parmesan and put back in the oven for the remainder of the cooking time. Either way works – depending on how hungry and impatient you are (and how many other dishes you’re in the process of wrangling onto the table).

And then eat. You’re welcome.

I’d love to show you what the finished dish looks like but, true to form, I was so excited about eating it that taking a picture was the furthest thing from my mind. It was all golden in its cheesy, pretty damn healthy perfection and I was powerless before it. C’est la vie.

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