Unglamorous vegetables: marrow

Unglamorous vegetables: marrow

by Anna Tobias 11 September 2019

Is marrow the ultimate unglamorous vegetable? We turn to Anna Tobias to help turn this affordable, unappreciated late summer staple into something delicious!

Previously guest head chef at East London favourite P. Franco, Anna Tobias has built a career on simple but effective cookery.

Anna was a relative latecomer to the industry – she studied modern languages at Oxford University before becoming a chef – but in the end, the allure of the kitchen proved too much. After joining Jeremy Lee at the Blueprint Café, Anna's career took her to The River Café and then to Margot Henderson's Rochelle Canteen, where she spent a number of years as head chef.

Anna is a recognisable face in London's restaurant circuit – she held a three-month residency at P. Franco and has hosted supper clubs in and out of the city, going as far as Berlin's Michelberger Hotel.

Anna will be opening Cafe Deco – her first permanent solo restaurant – in 2020 in London.

Marrows are unglamorous – there’s no point in beating around the bush with this one. They’re an overgrown courgette, a by-product, unwieldy and full of fluff (literally). They’re not exactly packed with flavour either – Jane Grigson is ruthless in her description of them: 'The Bunter of the kitchen garden has little to be said for it. Some cookery writers define its flavour as ‘delicate’. This carries politeness too far.'

I had thought about describing marrow as delicate but shan’t now. Grigson’s bile on marrows continues but I’ll leave it there before everyone is put off trying to cook any of the following recipes!

I do think Grigson goes a bit far with her vitriol against marrows – they are never going to be the most exciting of vegetables but they’re not that offensive either. Their main redeeming feature is that they are great flavour carriers and so you can use them as a canvas for some of your favourite things. I also associate marrows with comfort, as a white sauce is often called for and this is in itself a great soother. Finally, they are cheap, which is a definite benefit! You can make a generous dinner for a crowd and it won’t cost the earth.

The following recipes are a few of my favourite way of manipulating marrow into delicious dishes.

Marrow and cheddar soufflé

This is an elegant lunch. Not only that, but the main ingredients, besides the marrow, are cheese and onion, so you know it’s going to taste good. There are two options for the presentation of this dish: the kitsch version where you serve it in the scooped-out marrow, or else the slightly chicer version in a ramekin. Let your mood dictate which direction you go in.

Bolognese-stuffed marrow

Jane Grigson describes stuffed marrows thus: 'A disaster dish of English cookery once the marrow has reached Village Show size.' I couldn’t disagree more! I love this dish. If you like lasagne, then you will also like this. Instead of layers of pasta, the marrow is filled with a meat sauce, topped with bechamel and baked in the oven. It’s savoury, soothing and satisfying.

Marrow chutney

I live in London, so this chutney has come about because I wanted to make chutney and sadly not because I had a glut of vegetables in the garden. I’ve veered away from some of the traditional British chutney spices such as allspice and clove, and instead used coriander seeds as I thought this might suit the marrow better. Chutney is very amenable however, so if you miss those spicy flavours then please feel free to tweak as you see fit. Also due to my London living and therefore London-sized kitchen, I have made a relatively small quantity that you don’t need an enormous saucepan for.