I picked a courgette from my allotment garden which had got completely out of hand and grown into a small marrow. Time to get stuffing, I thought. As per usual, this week I’m posting basic instructions and next week I’ll post a video showing how to make this meal. Today I’m posting a road map of how I tackled the preparation of this meal but first…
… here’s my weight loss achieved with the help of Dee who runs the Patcham Weightwatchers. Full respect to her for putting up with me for the last six months, whilst I continually went off message. I can’t recommend her meetings enough. There’s a very supportive atmosphere. As attentive readers will know, I haven’t been following the eating scheme dreamt up by the boffins in Weightwatchers accounts department. They’ve created an idea called ProPoints, which is a lot of nonsense and really just an attempt to distinguish themselves from the various other weight loss systems now on the market. Following my example, clearly the best way to lose weight is to
- become virtually or completely vegan (I quit beer, butter, cheese, crisps and chocolate and was already vegetarian). This also helps save the planet – it is the single best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Got kids? Care about their future?
- incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, which means not going to the gym but just walking everywhere. Everywhere. If you don’t walk, cycle. For example, I’ve been helping out in Lewes with bonfire preparations on a Sunday morning the last couple of weeks. That’s a ten mile walk.
I’ve now been awarded Gold Membership of Weightwatchers, which is to say that I reached my goal weight. I deliberately set my goal weight at the very top end of my body mass index (BMI) because Gold Members do not have to pay their Weightwatchers’ subscriptions. Please note, there is no gold involved. I’ll be ramping up the amount of exercise I can fit into my lifestyle now. It’s become a lot easier because I don’t have so much fat to lug around. I’m not yet ready to post am “after” photograph of me to go with the “before” photograph posted on 16th March. Wish I’d gone fully naked now because it is my legs that have benefited the most. Also, that “before” photograph was actually taken when I had already lost a stone under my own steam (just by eating sensibly). The “after” image will come when I get to something around twelve and a half stone.
Marrows contain the same amount of flavour as courgettes but take up much more space. In other words, they are a bit bland. They aren’t that nutritious either, being 90% water. They yield a very small amount of Vitamin C. There is some dietary fibre. The seeds in my marrow were very soft, which I assume means that they were immature. Nonetheless, they must contain some Vitamin B, some minerals and some protein. I could perhaps have toasted them in a dry pan to get some of that nutrition but instead I dug them out, along with most of the inside of the marrow, to put into my compost bin.
Next I took two medium sized onions and chopped them up finely. I fried them hard in a bit of oil with a couple of cloves of garlic. After a few minutes, I added low salt vegan bouillon to add some basic flavour. Then I chopped up two peppers, one red and one yellow, and added them to the pan. I opened a packet of tofu, drained the water it the tofu block was sitting in and chopped it into little rectangles. Tofu can be quite tricky to cook in a stir fry because it often breaks up. Determined not to let this happen, I put it to one side until later. Next, I chopped up a load of cherry tomatoes, also grown in my garden. Home grown food tastes so much better than the rubbish offerings from supermarkets! I added them to the pan and kept the heat up. They slowly released their juice and the whole mixture became very fluid. I took a wholemeal pita bread from my cupboard, broke it into small pieces and put it in a coffee grinder to turn it into fine breadcrumbs. For years I’ve been making terrible breadcrumbs by using a cheese grater. Then my wife told me about the coffee grinder, which I did not even know we had, which was kind of her. I added the tofu chunks to the pan, gently stirred them in so that they soaked up some of the flavour in the pan and turned the heat down to let them marinate a little. Back in my garden I picked some thyme. I didn’t pick much because I haven’t grown much yet and didn’t want to kill the plant off. In the kitchen, I chopped it up as finely as I could. In hindsight, it would have been better if I had used a dry cutting board, rather than the one soaked in the juice from the tomatoes. I added the thyme to the mixture and stirred it in. Perhaps I should have added it much earlier in the proceeding. After ten minutes of gently turning the mixture over, taking care not to break up the tofu chunks, I added some of the breadcrumbs. The mixture soaked into the breadcrumbs and stiffened up considerably. I stopped adding breadcrumbs when it was only slightly juicy. I turned the heat off.
Back to the marrow. After taking either end off, I sliced it across to turn it into six slices which were a few inches in length. Putting each slice down with its larger end downwards, I used a table spoon to scoop out its innards, leaving half an inch intact at the bottom. In fact, I went too far with one slice but it didn’t seem to matter. I found that it was easier to dig the spoon into the marrow about a quarter of an inch from the edge and just push it down before scooping out. Then I tidied up the cavity by scraping more out. I poured some oil into a deep baking pan and brushed it over the insides and outsides of each marrow slice. I put each marrow slice into the pan and turned back to the stuffing mixture.
Using a table spoon, I transferred the stuffing into the cavities in the marrow slices. When each cavity was full, I pushed it down with the back of the spoon and added more mixture until it was piled up in a little heap above the marrow slice. Lastly, I made sure there were a couple of tofu slices on the very top of each pile of stuffing. Not sure why I did that.
Finally, using my fingers I took pinches of the rest of the breadcrumbs and delicately dropped it onto the stuffing in the marrows. Since the stuffing was piled up, this was a bit tricky and lots of it just rolled off into the bottom of the pan. I developed a technique of dropping each pinch onto the stuffing and immediately sticking it to the stuffing by pushing it gently around with my finger. Much less breadcrumb was lost. When the whole lot was done, I covered the baking tray with tin foil to stop the steam from escaping and put it into a preheated oven set to 100C. I’m not sure that this is the best temperature but I didn’t know when my beloved wife would come home from work and reckoned that this would ensure that they would cook slowly. Clearly, I made this meal for dinner but I think it would make a great lunch. I didn’t have lunch on that day anyway.
In the event, she came home a bit earlier than normal and I turned the heat up to 150C. With no idea how long the baking process should have been, I waited until I could smell some aromas from two rooms away. A sharp knife glided easily into the side of one of the marrow slices! It was nearly ready. I removed the baking tray from the oven, removed the tin foil from the tray, turned the heat up to 200C and put the tray back in, to brown off the top of the stuffing for ten minutes. Again, I timed this last bit by waiting until my wife, who was by this point rather hungry, announce, “It’s ready, I can smell it, get it out the oven now.” Bless her, she’s lovely to me, most of the time. Always remember, house husbands, a happy wife is a happy life.