It’s that time of year when everyone who grows courgettes and every friend of everyone who grows courgettes and a fair few friends of every friend of everyone who grows courgettes is sick of the sight of bloody courgettes… only to be faced with marrows. Whether by planning or by being missed for a few days, courgettes will happily take the chance to expand in size and become a glut in their own individual right rather than just as part of a courgette collective.
This year, we haven’t received many courgettes; restrictions on visiting / hosting have curtailed our usual supply routes. So we were delighted to be given a marrow by our friends Cath and Justin when we went to their allotment for a Sunday afternoon of barbecued freshly-picked veg. (Also – what a lovely allotment! Good food, good company, great way to spend a warm early autumn afternoon.)
Marrow divides people. Some see it as a waste of a good courgette, or as the enemy’s heavy artillery in the war on the courgette glut; others see it as a wonderful near-blank canvas for spicing, stuffing, and gratination. I’m in the latter camp (except where marrow and ginger jam is concerned – I can’t get the hang of it for some reason).
The marrow we brought home weighed in at 2.3kg – that’s 5lbs in imperial measurement – which I think is sort of medium-large (unless you are entering a competition to grow giant veg, then it’s a cue to be laughed out of the village fête).
I found a number of marrow recipes online, with many just directing you to use “1 marrow”. The internet is vague on the subject of how heavy the average marrow is; even I, lax as I tend to be on the subject of weights and measures, can see that recipes designed to counter the main ingredient’s inherent blandness might suffer when said ingredient’s weight can vary by a factor of two or three. (Also unhelpfully, the internet advised me that the typical weight of bone marrow in a 65kg human is 2.6kg. Searching for marrow facts and recipes requires a fair bit of picking through information about its skeletal namesake.)
I made a start on a marrow tikka at lunchtime, leaving it to marinate while I worked in the afternoon.
For the marinade:
- 1 tablespoon cumin seed
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder (a milder chilli powder – use an equal mix of chilli powder and paprika as an alternative)
- 1 teaspoon asafoetida
- 2 teaspoons ground methi
- 2 teaspoons amchoor
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- A squirt of tomato puree
- 50g ginger (about 2 heaped tablespoons chopped ginger)
- 1 smallish head garlic
- 1 tablespoon yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons oil
In a dry pan, lightly toast the cumin and fennel seed. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and grind them with the salt and sugar. Mix the resulting powder with the other dry spices.
Chop the ginger, and grind it with the garlic in the pestle and mortar to a paste. Mix this and the yoghurt and oil with the dry spice mix.
I used two-thirds of the marrow we’d been given – 1.5kg (about 3lbs). I split it into quartets lengthways and cut the spongey, seeded innards out, leaving me with 1.25kg.
I split the quarters down the middle, then chopped across them at roughly 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals. The pieces were mixed with the marinade and left to stand. At first the marinade was too dry to easily coat the marrow. As the salt drew water out of the marrow flesh it loosened up – when I returned to it after four hours the extra liquid made it easy to get a more even coating. I left it for another two hours before roasting it, because we needed to go to the supermarket. I think ideally the marinade would be drier than it ended up, in fact – so perhaps just two or three hours in total would have been enough time. (Had I been doing proper tikka, in a tandoor, the marinade would definitely need to have been drier. But until I have a tandoor, that’s not a big consideration. One day…)
Heat the oven to 200°C (ours is a fan oven, so I guess 220°C if yours isn’t). Line a large roasting tin with greaseproof paper. Put the marrow pieces in the tin in a single layer, keeping as much marinade on the marrow rather than the paper as possible. Blob the marinade that is left in the bowl onto the marrow pieces. Put in the oven to roast for around 45 minutes, until you can stick a fork into the marrow with just a bit of resistance. The marinade will be fairly dry on the top of the marrow, and moister around the bottom.
This will serve three or four people as a main dish. It’s got a nice heat, so consider serving it with yoghurt to provide a cool and tangy contrast.