This time of year is very exciting when it comes to seasonal produce and foraging. With temperatures unconventionally high for this time of year, our late summer produce has continued to thrive, creating an interesting seasonal lap-over between the sweet delicate flavours of summer, and the earthy, wholesome tendencies of autumnal offerings.
As mornings become a little more frosty, and temperatures drop dramatically at sunset, the hardier veggies however, are in their prime. Traditionally associating this time of year with pumpkins, don’t forget the end of the summer squashes and marrows that are tasting deliciously sweet after an extended sunny stint.
Squashes and pumpkins should be approached with more confidence as they can be used similarly to root vegetables in soups, and stews, baked, roasted or mashed. However, their hardy skins often make for tricky and time consuming peeling and prepping, making the humble marrow evermore attractive.
With its beautifully green mottled skin and tender flesh, marrows this year are seemingly ‘super-sized’, making them the perfect seasonal supper for the whole family. Easy to prepare and often big enough to feed the five thousand, the marrow is great for a plentiful and wholesome dinner; stuffed, baked and bursting with flavour.
Marrows are on the more delicate side of the squash family, and therefore should be treated with a lighter hand, when considering cooking times and flavour combinations. Be careful not to overpower the marrow’s subtle character.
People often see marrow as an ugly and boring vegetable, masking it with a barrage of flavours, simply using it as a edible vessel. Although my latest recipe of stuffed marrow could be accused of also doing so, the key is in the balance between marrow and stuffing. At the end of the day, the marrow is what you want to sing, so don’t be too keen at hollowing the delicate flesh. Simply discarding of the seedy area is enough to pack it with plenty of ingredients that seek to only complement and ultimately enhance the marrow.
Take a look at my latest recipe of stuffed marrow with a spicy ragout that celebrates this understated veggie in all its seasonal glory. A lightly spiced minced meat based ragout and crispy golden parmesan crumb is the perfect topping to this cucurbit’s mild, creamy and sweet characteristics.
Tbsp rapeseed oil
1 red onion
1 chilli (medium heat)
1 clove of garlic
500g Minced meat (I used turkey – great flavour but less fat. Also works great with lamb and beef)
1 yellow/orange pepper
50g sundried tomatoes
100g shitake mushrooms (any mushrooms will do – these are just great for adding meaty texture and nutty flavour. Cheaper alternative are chestnut mushroom)
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp curry powder
1 can of chopped tomatoes (1 can of water)
Splash of red wine
Bunch of fresh basil
1 large marrow
Bunch of thyme
Seasoning; salt, pepper and garam masala
100g bread crumbs
50g dried or fresh parmesan
Handful of pine nuts
1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the diced onion, chilli and garlic for around 5 minutes until soft. Add the mince and cook until the meat has slightly browned. Add the diced pepper, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms, allowing to fry for a couple of minutes, before sprinkling in the paprika and curry powder. Stir continuously to ensure the spices and fully incorporated and the meat does not stick (this is common with meat lower in fat such as turkey), cooking for a further 3 or 4 minutes.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes; and using the empty can as a gauge, fill with water and add to the pan, along with a healthy splash of red wine. Allow the ragout to reduce, cooking on a moderate heat for about 20 minutes. In the last few minutes of cooking stir through the spinach and a handful of roughly chopped basil.
3. Whilst the ragout is simmering, prepare the marrow. Slice in half longways using a sharp knife. Using a spoon, scoop out the soft, seedy centre and discard – ensure the marrow is substantially hollowed leaving around 3cm of flesh. Season with salt, pepper and a twist of garam masala, along with a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and place in a large baking tin. Pre-heat the oven to 200c.
4. Take the ragout off the heat and spoon into the hollowed marrow ensuring it is well filled but try to avoid overspill (as this will burn). In a separate bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parmesan and pine nuts before sprinkling on top of the filled marrow. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the crumb is golden and the marrow flesh is soft but still holding form. Remove from oven, allow to sit for 3-4 minutes and then slice into portions. Serve with aromatic rice and a little fresh thyme and sliced chilli.
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