Courgette, marjoram and toasted almond salad

This combination of soft courgette and crunchy almonds makes a great side salad. Try adding a little English feta (see here) and some granary bread croutons to turn it into a meal. If you cannot get hold of marjoram – and it can be tricky – try oregano instead. If you can’t get hold of either you can use dried; there is obviously a difference but next time you find the fresh herb you could try the recipe again and check out the flavour yourself. In this recipe you will see that you are asked to smash the herbs with the sugar, this is because the sugar acts as an abrasive and helps to break them up.
You can use the ribboning trick we employ here on other vegetables: try it with asparagus or carrots – it changes the look of your salad and makes an interesting textural difference.

small bunch of marjoram (or oregano)
½ tsp granulated sugar
50ml sunflower oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
100g whole blanched almonds
3 medium courgettes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pick the leaves from the marjoram and pop them into a small bowl (or, better still, a mortar).
Add the sugar and, using the end of a rolling pin (or a pestle), smash the sugar and marjoram just a little, to break the leaves and release the oils. Tip it into a mixing bowl, unless you were using one of those already, in which case leave it there.
Pour in the oil and vinegar and mix. Allow to sit and infuse while you finish the recipe.
Heat a dry frying pan until fairly hot (not too hot or some burning will happen). Add the almonds and, using a wooden spoon, stir continually so they don’t catch. Once they are golden, tip them out on to a plate to prevent them overcooking.
Wash the courgettes, then trim off the top and bottom. If you have a swivelly peeler, the next bit will be easy; if you have a regular peeler it is fine but just a bit trickier. Lay the courgette flat and, using your peeler, slide it from one end to the other along the length so that you have long strips. When you hit the seeds in the centre, stop, turn the courgette over and repeat on the other side. You should have lots of ‘ribbons’. It may seem like a lot at first, but they will soon flop.
Put the courgettes and almonds in a large pretty serving bowl, season well and add the dressing, then carefully mix so you don’t break the ribbons.