Smacking courgettes for salads (as they do in Sichuan with cucumbers) is highly advisable. When they are simply cut with a knife, any marinade can slope off a surface like rain off a window, but smacking creates all sorts of nooks and crannies in which the sauce can hide. This particular salad is the crowning glory of a cold sesame noodle dish that I make endless variations of, especially when time is short, summer is high and courgettes are abundant, which is plenty often.
Cold sesame noodles with smacked courgette
If you’d rather not make the chilli oil, buy a jar of chiu chow chilli oil (sold in most supermarkets – Lee Kum Kee is a good brand) and add to taste.
Prep 5 min
Cook 30 min
1 ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
5 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 large courgette (about 300g)
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 ½ tbsp black vinegar
4 tbsp tahini
200g wholewheat noodles
2 tbsp black sesame seeds, to garnish
Put the Sichuan peppercorns into a spice grinder or mortar and grind as finely as you can. (Rather than bashing, I find that rotating the pestle is the best way to get a fine grind.) Put the ground pepper into a small saucepan with the shallot, garlic, chilli flakes, cumin and oil, stir and heat up over a low to medium heat until simmering. Cook for five minutes, until the garlic is golden, then take off the heat, leave to cool, then stir in two tablespoons of soy sauce and set aside.
Now to bash the courgette. With a pestle or heavy rolling pin, hit the courgette on all sides until it starts to give in, then cut in half and slice into thin matchstick strips. Put these in a bowl and mix with two tablespoons of chilli oil, the salt and vinegar.
Stir the tahini into the rest of the chilli oil. Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, rinse under cold water and drain well. Return the noodles to the pan you cooked them in, tip in the chilli tahini sauce and half the smacked courgettes, and toss to coat.
To serve, transfer the noodles to a serving plate, scatter the remaining courgette strips over the top and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.