Stuffing zucchini flowers

Zucchinis are wonders for the hack gardener. You plant them, leave them to the ladybirds, and keep picking from their foliage for months on end. You can eat them raw, grate them on salads, bake them, toss them into stews, and their beautiful flowers make for wonderful containers for all sorts of ripping flavours.

Stuffed zucchini flowers make even the most mundane plate look magnificent. The gorgeous green and white of the finely sliced vegetable, given that extra edge of style by the brilliant yellow of the flower. You can put anything inside – anything, that is, which requires gentle re-heating rather than cooking. One of my favourite mixtures is a combination of finely chopped and gently cooked onions and garlic, a mussel or two chopped very finely, and the lot held together by a mix of butter and basil. The butter melts and the flower loses its shape, but you just can’t beat it for flavour.

A version of this dish which holds its own is one in which you replace the butter and basil with pesto. You can also dip the stuffed flowers in batter and deep-fry them, but I have never seen the sense in this. Apply common sense and let simple flavours do their best.

The secret to stuffing something so delicate as these zucchini flowers is to provide the same ground rules you would apply to stuffing pasta and calling it ravioli or tortellini: the filling should have a robust flavour, well and truly able to hold its own, but when encased, it should not overwhelm its host.

1 zucchini per person, complete with flower — These are available at smart fruit shops across town, but of course they are much better if picked direct from your garden. They should be picked when closed, either at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, and then treated gently. They are best if not washed, which is another reason for not spraying the vegetable garden.

1 other young zucchini, sliced very finely

1 carrot, grated

1 clove garlic, chopped very finely

3 small shallots, or 1 onion

1 tomato, peeled and chopped finely — Romas are best because of their dense flesh.

handful of chives, chopped finely a few leaves of basil, snipped

a few nuts, chopped roughly — Use hazelnuts, unsalted walnuts or cashews.

½ stem of lemon grass, chopped finely — The zest of ½ lemon, chopped finely, is a good substitute in this case.

1 dessertspoon good olive oil

1 dessertspoon soy sauce

black pepper


Mix all the ingredients, except for the zucchinis with the flowers, in a bowl and steam, covered, in the microwave on high for about 5 minutes. The filling is done when the carrots, zucchini and shallots have softened. The filling cannot be undercooked — the ingredients are young enough to eat raw anyway — but if you cook it too long it can dry out. Remember, it is also going to be heated through again. Allow the mix to cool before filling the flowers.


Treat the zucchini and flowers very gently. Slice the zucchini along its length from the bottom almost to the flower, so it can be fanned. Taking care not to rip the flower, slice out the calyx (the zucchini’s tonsils, I guess).


Gently fill the flowers with the mixture, and fold them shut. Steam for 8–10 minutes, until the zucchini is tender. The flower should still be firm and yellow.


Serve with a simple dressing made of the best virgin olive oil, a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, black pepper, salt and some chopped nuts. Use the same nuts you used in the stuffing.