It’s that time of year again, when run-away courgettes (zucchini), leave gardeners with what most people would consider to be way too many marrows. Indeed, for most people, just one of these ungainly and graceless vegetables would be considered too many. Even the most celebrated and renowned vegetable enthusiasts seem slightly resentful of the marrow, with Nigel Slater stating that he has:
“always had [his] doubts about any vegetable heavy enough to be used as a murder weapon”
I have to admit that marrow isn’t my favourite vegetable either, and I would certainly never bother to buy one myself. Apart from anything else, I’m never very sure what to do with them. So, when a friend last week gave me an enormous – and actually very beautiful – marrow that was grown by a friend of hers, my delight in being given some wonderful home-grown produce was tempered ever-so slightly by my concern over what I might do with it. In the end, of course, I’ve had a great time looking for suitable recipes.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a photograph before I started slicing and dicing, and I’m convinced that I won’t be able to give an adequate impression of just how large it was. So, all I can say is that it was, well, large. Anyway, in the end I decided that the only satisfactory approach was to divide and conquer, and I carved it into three roughly equal portions. One of these sections has been blanched and frozen for future use, so if anyone has a suggestion for other interesting marrow recipes, then it would be really great to hear from you.
The second was used to make this tasty and warming soup, which really does seem perfect for this time of year, as summer days begin to give way to something more autumnal. I currently have plans to stuff the remaining third, and if all goes well, I’m hoping that it will feature in an upcoming post.
Recipe: Marrow, Chilli and Ginger Soup
Half a marrow, seeds removed and cut into small chunks
some recipes suggest that you peel the marrow first, but I chose to leave it on – not least because I like the dark green flecks in the blended soup
1 large onion, finely diced
1 – 2 tbsp oil
1 red chilli – seeds removed if desired – sliced
½ tsp cumin
A piece of fresh ginger (about 1 inch), peeled and finely chopped
700 ml stock
2 tbsp lentils
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: A few slices of chilli, or some chilli oil* to decorate
Put the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chilli, cumin and ginger. Stir well.
Add the marrow and onion, and stir again to coat everything in the oil.
Leave for a few minutes until sizzling hot, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and leave to cook gently for 15-20 minutes.
Add the stock and lentils and simmer for another 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are fully cooked.
Leave to cool slightly, and then process until really smooth, using a food processor or hand blender. Add salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve piping hot in warm bowls (re-heat if necessary). If you fancy, you can add some chilli slices, or drizzle over some chilli oil.
If you’ve got the time, then it’s straight-forward to make your own chilli oil.
Put 4 red chillies (deseeded and sliced) in a small saucepan with 200ml olive oil, a few sprigs of thyme (leaves only), and 1 garlic clove (unpeeled). Heat slowly until the oil is simmering very gently and cook the chillies until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Once made, the oil will keep, sealed in an airtight container in the fridge, for a couple of weeks.