Marrow Dal and Fried Marrow Skin (Khosha Bhaja)

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My husband once asked a fellow foodie friend, who used to write for the food section of one of the large weekend newspapers here in the UK, for suggestions of ways to cook with marrow, to which her response was ‘you can start by throwing it in the bin’.  Ever so harsh but she is not alone! Many people often overlook the humble marrow and regard it as tasteless. I can tell you however, that marrow completely comes into its own cooked in Indian dal and even the skin need not be discarded as you can cook a completely separate delicious dish using it.

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In the hot sweltering heat of an Indian summer, eating marrow is the perfect way to cool down as it’s made pretty much made of water. So by combining it with red split lentils to form a dal is a wonderfully satisfying way to eat marrow in all it’s glory. Gardens here in England are bursting with marrows at the moment and although I have none growing in my postage stamp garden both my mother and mother-in-law are supplying me with endless amounts of marrow.

So dive in and give this glorious dal a go. I bet you’ll even surprise yourself as to how good it tastes.

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Marrow Dal

Serves 2-3

125g red split lentils

500g marrow, skinned and cubed (remember to keep the skin)

600g boiling water

1 tsp salt

half tsp turmeric

1 tbsp vegetable/mustard oil

1tsp Panch Phoran (Bengali five spice – see below)

2 green chillies, chopped in two

Panch Phoran is a uniquely Bengali (East India and Bangladesh) five (panch) spice mix. It has a magnificent aroma so I often use it in my red split lentil dals. If you cannot find a packet in your local Asian grocers you can make it yourself by mixing the following seeds together in equal parts: fennel, cumin, nigella, fenugreek and mustard. Store in an airtight container and it will last months. 

1. Rinse the red split lentils under cold water so as to clean them thoroughly. Repeat the process a couple of times.

2. In a saucepan add the cleaned red split lentils and 500g of boiling water. Add the turmeric and salt and leave to simmer for 7-10 minutes. If the lentils begin to dry out add a little more boiling water.

3. Add the marrow and stir into the dal. Add a further 100ml of boiling water and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

4. In a separate pan heat the oil and when it is hot gently add the panch phoran. They will begin to pop immediately so keep them moving around the pan. Add the chillies and mix in together. Now pour the marrow dal on top of the panch phoran and chillies and stir in together. Leave to simmer for a further minute. Let it cool slightly before serving. You may need to add more salt if required.

In India many people often add a little ghee (clarified butter) on top just before serving to give it that extra delicious taste. If you are watching your waste line simply ignore this step!

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Fried Marrow Skin – Khosa Bhaja

Skin of a marrow

1 tbsp vegetable/mustard oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp salt

pinch of chilli powder (optional)

1 green chilli, finely sliced

1. Peel the skin of a marrow and slice into fine, small stripes. Place in a pan of boiling water and gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

2. Strain and place to one side. Heat a pan with oil and when it is hot add the nigella seeds. After a few seconds add the marrow skin followed by the turmeric, chilli powder, green chilli and salt. Cook on a low heat until the marrow skin begins to bronze.

Serve with the marrow dal above.