A few days ago the garden gate creaked and the familiar figure of our nextdoor neighbour Leyla appeared round the corner.
She was bearing a tepsi/tray full of produce from her garden and what a sight it was: sunshine yellow courgette flowers, a few shiny purple aubergines, a bunch of mint, some cucumbers, and a huge marrow or kabak, all freshly picked and just for me!
I know that those courgette flowers are very delicate and should really be given attention immediately but I didn’t have the parsley or dill to make a tasty stuffing.
The alternative was to fry them but there was outcry from the family: they didn’t want fried! Other matters caught my attention and the time that elapsed was the kiss of death for the courgette flowers: they close up and then wilt.
Even though marrows are made of sterner stuff than this, I was determined not to let mine go the same way so I decided there and then to stuff it.
I have to say that marrows are not usual here: is it a huge courgette? One that got away? I don’t know. I have never seen one as big as this.
However, all my dolma-making years stood me in good stead; all I had to do was check the best way of cooking this one as I certainly didn’t want it to become soft and watery.
In fact, you don’t actively cook them at all: simply lower into a pan of boiling water and then turn off the gas and leave to sit.
Stuffed marrow is an English dish so I was easily able to find a BBC Good Food recipe from The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best.
I had all the ingredients including the mince which I had had the foresight to defrost before going out in the morning. The stuffing didn’t include rice but did have cheese which turned it into something English as opposed to a Turkish dolma recipe. It also included eggs which Turkish dolma never do.
We were surprised at it how rich and moist the finished stuffed marrow was! Daughter No 2 discovered the remains of the stuffing in the pan, licked her lips and promptly finished it off! I will definitely be making this again if I am given another whopper marrow.
Ingredients for Stuffed Marrow
I medium marrow, cut in half widthways
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (I used dried)
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the marrow
2 large onions, roughly chopped
500g/1lb beef mince
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste OR 1 x 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsely, plus extra for serving
3 eggs, beaten
75g/2 ¼ oz parmesan, grated, plus extra for serving
75g pecorino, grated (I used a local cheese instead)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a large roasting tin with foil, leaving the ends hanging over the edges of the tin.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil – the pan needs to be large enough to hold the marrow halves. Season the water lightly with salt.
Scoop the seeds and stringy pulp from the marrow halves using a spoon, and discard.
Scoop about 120g/4½oz of the flesh from the inside of the marrow, creating a large hollow, and put to one side.
Carefully lower the hollowed marrow halves into the pan of boiling water, immediately turn the heat off and leave them sitting in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
Crush the garlic and fresh thyme in a pestle and mortar and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onions, followed by the garlic and thyme, and then fry until soft. Add the beef mince and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly until brown.
If using fresh tomatoes, prepare them whilst the beef is browning: place the tomatoes in a bowl. Pour over boiling water, and leave for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon, run under cold water, and peel the skin from the flesh. Discard the skin, and chop the peeled tomatoes roughly
Add the tomato purée and sun-dried tomato paste (or chopped sun-dried tomatoes if using) to the browned beef mince, and cook for another 5 minutes. Chop the reserved flesh from the marrow and stir it into the sauce, stir in the chopped tomatoes, and parsley and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take the sauce off the heat and let it cool briefly before stirring in the eggs (if the eggs are stirred in too soon they will scramble).
Add half of the parmesan and pecorino or other cheese to the pan and stir until well combined.
Carefully remove the 2 halves of marrow from the hot water, draining any water from the centre, and place them in the baking tin. Spoon the sauce mixture into each of the marrow halves until they are full.
Gently push the halves together, and brush the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle the remaining half of the grated cheeses over the top of the marrow. Wrap the sides of the foil around the marrow to hold it together, leaving a small gap at the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, increase the temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6, open out the foil and cook for another 5 minutes so the grated cheese can brown and become crispy. Remove from the oven, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
To serve, slice the marrow into rings, and sprinkle with extra parmesan and parsley to serve, if you like.
You may have noticed that I am not cooking along with the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food with the other group of wonderful blogger cooks who post every Friday. It is just not possible for me right now but I hope to re-join later on! You can find out who they are by going to Mary’s blog One Perfect Bite. You are in for a treat!