Earlier this summer I took on the lease of a small allotment in the East Devon town where I live.

As a chef I have always cooked in places with their own kitchen or market gardens, so 'how hard can it be?’ was the sentiment behind my new project.

The answer seems to be ‘really rather hard’.

Pigeons, slugs, rabbits and mysterious diseases have all come along to challenge me in my first few months. However, one true survivor is my crop of courgettes.

They have been coming thick and fast for weeks. Some I manage to catch before they enthusiastically become marrows, some manage to slip the net.

When I was thinking of a recipe that could use either the tiny finger-sized courgettes or the ones as big as your arm, the idea of a pickle appealed. Something that would preserve some of this summery glut for the long winter months.

I landed on one of my all time favourites: piccalilli.

Here the courgettes are salted before being pickled which helps draw out some of their water, keeping them nice and crunchy.

I ate this piccalilli with a crisp, buttery tart piled up with roasted tomatoes, shallots, goats’ cheese and lots of herbs. Lots of the flavours of a classic ratatouille but reimagined into a summery tart that is perfect for a late summer lunch.

A late summer tart of tomatoes, shallots and oregano with a courgette piccalilli

For the pastry

200g plain flour

100g unsalted butter

75g cold water

Pinch of salt


4 banana shallots

4 large ripe tomatoes

1 small bunch of herbs, such as oregano, rosemary and fennel

4 cloves of garlic, bashed

100g soft goats’ cheese (I used ‘Rosary Ash’ in my version)

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the piccalilli

500g courgettes

25g fine salt

15g cornflour

5g turmeric

5g mustard seeds

8g mustard powder

5g coriander seeds, bashed

300g cider vinegar

75g caster sugar

20g honey


For the piccalilli, slice the courgettes into even-sized chunks, roughly the size of a thumbnail. Scatter the courgette with the salt and mix well. Allow the courgette to sit for half an hour, both to season the vegetables and soften them slightly.

Place the cornflour, turmeric, mustard seeds, mustard powder and coriander seeds in a small bowl.

Bring the cider vinegar, sugar and honey to a gentle simmer in a saucepan. Add a splash of the hot vinegar to the cornflour and spice mixture and stir to form a thick paste.

Add this paste to the pan with the hot vinegar and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Rinse the excess salt off the courgettes and dry thoroughly with a tea towel. Add the courgettes into the hot pickle, stir thoroughly then transfer to a container to cool.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

For the pastry, dice the butter and combine in a bowl with the flour and a pinch of salt. Add the water and mix together to form a tight dough.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough in one sheet of a thickness of around 2cm. Bring the two ends of the pastry together so they overlap. Turn the dough by a quarter and roll it out again. Repeat this process 2 more times. Wrap the pastry in cling film or baking parchment and chill for 30 minutes.

Drizzle a small baking tray with olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. Slice the shallots lengthways, through the root and place cut side down on the seasoned surface of the tray. Slice the tomatoes in half through the equator and place them on the tray along with the bashed garlic cloves and torn selection of herbs. Give the tray an additional drizzle of olive oil and roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Once roasted, gently peel away the tough outer skins of the shallots.

Roll out your pastry to a rectangle of roughly 25 by 30cm and place it on a lined baking tray. Score a border in the pastry around 1cm from the edge of the pastry, ensuring you cut down into the pastry around 2/3rds deep, being careful not to cut right through it.

Then lightly score a crosshatch into the middle piece of the pastry. This helps prevent the pastry from puffing up too much in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Then add the roasted tomatoes and shallots, along with the garlic and herbs and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly, then scatter with the soft goats' cheese. Serve with a green salad and a generous dollop of the piccalilli.

Sam’s cooking career began 10 years ago with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage, which inspired his love for sustainable practices, foraging and seasonal cooking. In 2022 he became the youngest contestant to reach the finals of BBC Two’s Great British Menu. He is currently head chef at Glebe House near Colyton.