You may have seen enormous marrows at a market recently. Or perhaps like Sibilla you have been growing courgettes this summer and left the patch untended for a few days, returning to discover that your sweet little courgettes, left unpicked, have swollen into humongous Mr. Hyde versions of themselves.
"We'll feed them to the pigs." was our first reaction, but wait! These are summer squash, related to their winter cousins pumpkin and butternut, which are also capable of reaching gargantuan sizes. Surely there must be something we can do?
I am very fond of marrows now.
They do need some gentle love and attention, but you'll end up with the perfect comfort food. We ate this with roast chicken, braised rabbit and on its own in big steaming bowlfuls.
The trick is to separate the pale, creamy yellow flesh inside from the rest of the monster. Once cooked, marrow has a delicate, clear flavour than reminds me of Chinese winter melon and the consistency of softened butter.
First cut the marrow down into manageable sections and remove the dark geen skin with a sharp knife. These blocks can then be sliced into rounds and chopped into cubes. I throw away the spongey, seedy parts as I find them stringy and chewy.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
One or more marrows cut into cubes roughly 5cm wide and 3cm high, 2-2.5kg
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with some salt
Salt and pepper
A cup of water
You'll need a big pot that can hold all the marrow, preferably heavy based. Generously cover the base with about 1cm of olive oil, add the garlic and sprinkle liberally with salt and ground pepper.
Add a third of the marrow cubes and then stir well until every cube is coated with oil and seasoning. Repeat with the remaining two thirds of marrow and finish with a final glug of oil and a scattering of salt and pepper. Pour over the water and cover with a tight fitting lid.
Place the pot over a low flame and forget about it for 45 minutes. When you lift the lid the cubes should be almost submerged in bubbling golden liquid. Give it another 15 minutes if not. Then remove the lid and leave the marrow to simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until you can only see a little liquid left.
Coax the marrow into a large serving dish, or ladle into deep bowls straight from the pot. Eat with a spoon.
I hope this will end up as a collection of recipes, restaurants and anything else that celebrates the wonderful diversity of foods and how we prepare and eat them. Some ingredients may seem unusual to you, but I love learning about new cooking techniques and tasting new foods. I am fascinated by the way in which different cultures have made their food into something more than just fuel. This is a reflection of what excited me at that time and season. Above all it is a record of where I was and what was eaten...and how to bring those memories back again.