In this delicious vegetarian dish, thick slices of large zucchini are hollowed out and filled with a tasty stuffing based on creamy white kidney beans and fennel. A crispy topping of breadcrumbs and walnuts makes the perfect finishing touch.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Trim the ends from the zucchini, then peel off thin strips of skin, lengthwise, to achieve a striped effect. Cut across into pieces 4 cm long and remove the soft centre flesh by hollowing out with an apple corer or small sharp knife, making sure not to cut all the way through to the base. Finely dice the removed zucchini flesh and set aside.
Put the zucchini rings in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and arrange them, upright, in a single layer in a large ovenproof dish.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently cook the garlic and shallots or onion for 3-4 minutes, until they are beginning to soften. Add the fennel and diced zucchini flesh and continue cooking over a low heat for a further 5 minutes until the fennel is almost tender. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chopped tomatoes with their juice, the white kidney beans, cilantro and chili flakes (if using), then season to taste.
Spoon the bean mixture into the zucchini rings, piling it up on top. Pour the stock into the dish around them. Cover with a 'tent' of foil, tightly sealing around the edge, but allowing space for the zucchini to steam. Bake the zucchini for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle the tops with a mixture of the breadcrumbs, walnuts, cheese and a little freshly ground black pepper, if you like. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for a further 15-20 minutes until the zucchini are very tender and the tops are crisp and brown.
Tip: The easiest way to remove the strips of zucchini peel is to use a vegetable peeler.
Per serving: 343 calories, 17 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 17 g protein, 25.5 g carbohydrate, 13 g fibre