Moussaka-stuffed marrow

Not yet rated

Our resident allotment owner Food Urchin, shares his moussaka stuffed marrow recipe and his story about what it’s like to be part of a community of plot owners.

National Allotment Week may well be drawing to a close and whilst I could use this post to extol the benefits and virtues of growing your own fruit and vegetables (they’re local, they’re fresh, they taste lovely), I thought it would be more beneficial to regale a conversation I had last week. To give you more of an insight of what it really is like to be immersed within an allotment community. Because personally, it is the interaction and conversations that I have with some of the older members of Norfolk Road allotments that makes all the effort worthwhile and just that extra bit special.

Under a baking hot sun, I was going about the business of watering everything, which given that it was around midday, was a totally impractical thing to do. Thirsty plants are far happier to receive a drink first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. But nevertheless, there I was running back and forth to the water tank with my son’s t-shirt on my bald head, protecting it from the harsh UV rays because I forgot my hat.

Ray, a grey, moustachioed, lanky sort of chap who owns a plot at the other end, appeared out of nowhere and gave me a bit of a fright. Still, I acknowledged his presence with a wink and he tipped his hat my direction and surveyed all my produce with a keen eye. By all accounts, my tomatoes needed a thorough pinching out, my onions weren’t planted deep enough and the gauge on the chicken wire that I had bought to protect my brassicas was far too wide. White cabbage butterflies could easily fly in and lay eggs, apparently.

I have become used to these pearls of wisdom and always graciously accept them through gritted teeth. Ray, quite sombrely, then went on to tell me a story.

“Did you hear about the row the other day Dan?”

“No, what row?”

“Bill accused Dave of pinching his strawberries and they tried to have a fight.”

“They tried to have a fight?”

“Yeah, well Bill went to kick Dave, missed and fell over and twisted his ankle. Then, whilst Bill was on the floor, Dave tried to punch Bill on the nose and he missed and fell and cracked his head open.”

“What happened then?”

“They got carted off together in an ambulance, screaming and shouting at each other.”

And with that, Ray burst out laughing and then so did I.

I don’t actually know how old Bill and Dave are but they have got to be in their 70’s at least and if anything exemplifies the passions that allotments can arouse, then that little tale has to be it. One day I should write a book about life and the characters on Norfolk Road. Or a screenplay even. In the meantime, I shall keep on tending away and observing for material. Although, perhaps I need to keep a closer eye on what I am actually growing because as Ray sternly pointed out just before he walked back, I keep letting my courgettes grow too big. So big, that they practically become marrows.

Perhaps I’ll give one or two to Bill and Dave when they’ve fully recuperated. But then again, maybe not, as these beauties could become a nasty weapon in the wrong hands.





Heat some olive oil in a wide, non-stick saucepan and gently sauté the onion for 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and parsley, cooking for a minute or so, then turn up the heat and add the mince. Brown the meat all over, then add the cinnamon, oregano and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute and then add white wine, leaving it to bubble and evaporate. Add the tomato passata, reduce the heat and leave to gently simmer on the hob for 1 hour, or until the liquid has reduced and the mix is rich and thick
Whilst the meat is cooking away, heat some oil in a frying pan (or a couple of pans to get the job done quicker) and in small batches, fry the aubergine slices on both sides until golden. Remove and place on a plate with kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
When the meat is ready, slice the marrow into 4 even slices and hollow out the soft centre, making even circles, and stand on a baking tray. In each one, layer some aubergine slices on the bottom, then add a generous layer of meat. Repeat, depending on depth of marrow slice, leaving a gap at the top to hold the béchamel
To make the béchamel, heat the butter in a saucepan. When it begins to foam, add the flour and whisk to form a roux. Turn the heat down and gently cook the roux through for 2 minutes. Bring the heat back up and then gradually add the warm milk, whisking all the while until it thickens. Stir through the pinch of nutmeg and then spoon a layer of béchamel on top of the marrow
Place the marrow and moussaka into the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the tops have browned and the marrow has softened

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

Get in touch

Please sign in or register to send a comment to Great British Chefs.