Zucchini caviar is one of the traditional Russian dishes introduced to us by Simon’s wife Katya, along with a delicious soup she makes with dried porcini mushrooms, blini pancakes with jam, and pelmeni dumplings served with thick cream called smetana. This “caviar” is made with coarsely grated shreds of zucchini that are slowly cooked with onions and garlic until the spread truly looks like caviar with a similar piquant (though not fishy) taste. Serve it at room temperature with fresh rye bread, or tossed with warm pasta.

Makes 3-4 1-cup/250-ml jars to serve 6-8
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
1 lb/450 g small zucchini
1 lb/450 g ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves

1. Heat half the oil in large saucepan, add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant and soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot and cook also until wilted, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, bay leaves and remaining oil with a sprinkling of salt.

2. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is very soft and browned, almost caramelized in its juices, 20-25 minutes. Set aside the lid, stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking the caviar to a dark, rough-textured paste that resembles caviar, 20-30 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaves, taste and adjust the seasoning. The caviar keeps well in a cool place for up to a month if tightly covered in jars; to help preserve it, run a thin layer of olive oil on top.