A sustaining hors d’oeuvre, Zucchini alia Marinara (zoo-kee-nee ah-la mah-rin-ah-rah) makes a delectable start to any extra special meal.
8 medium-sized courgettes , trimmed
4½ teaspoons salt
12- oz. butter
1 shallot or spring onion , trimmed and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon white pepper
8 oz. frozen prawns or shrimps, thawed
10 fl. oz. bechamel sauce, kept hot
Using a sharp knife, slice the courgettes in half lengthways and carefully hollow out the flesh, leaving boat-shaped shells. Reserve the shells and finely chop the flesh. Place the flesh in a small mixing bowl.
½ teaspoon of salt into each shell and drain them on kitchen paper towels, hollow side down, for
Preheat the oven to hot 425 ‘F (Gas Mark 7, 220°C) and lightly grease a large, fairly shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
In a large frying-pan, heat the remaining butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the shallot or spring onion and garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.
Add the courgette flesh, the chopped tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, the cayenne, the remaining salt and the pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the prawns or shrimps and cook for 2 minutes.
Arrange the drained courgette shells on the bottom of the baking dish, skin side down, and spoon a little of the tomato and prawn or shrimp mixture into each of them. Pour the bechamel sauce over the shells and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
Place the baking dish in the centre of the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is slightly bubbly. Remove the dish from the oven and serve immediately.