I went on holiday for a month. It was hot and sunny in the south of France, and damp and English in London. My garden has become a jungle, and everything is a size bigger than it should be.
There are mushrooms three inches across under the birch trees and clearly the homes of gnomes, a bright yellow pumpkin as big as my head which looks like a roc's egg, runner beans 18 inches long and fat with big purple beans, where the snails haven't got them - and under the parasol leaves near the front of the vegetable patch I found Monster.
Monster is a courgette. Monster weighs 1.5kg, or 3.5lb in old money. Monster is practically as long as my arm. My dad told me not to take him on a train because he might get classed as an offensive weapon. Who could possibly be offended by Monster?!
His eating demanded ceremony and attention. I didn't think he was going to get cooked at all, my week is so busy. Today my curry date (third in a week, but all delicious) cancelled a little to my relief. I will see the friend next week for idli and dosai, and we will be both be relaxed and ready. All the way home on the bus I pondered. I googled and thought and risked antagonising the motion sickness and the smelly man with ear hair who sat beside me for a while.
Monster: roasted with lemon and rosemary; stuffed with crispy sausagemeat, chilli and pear.
I knew there was going to be sausage, but it took a Nigel Slater recipe, obviously, to tell me that I wanted it to be *crispy*. The rest is my idea...
Marrow with crispy sausage and pear
Serves 2 very hungry people, or 3 with a salad
1 large courgette, or several smaller ones, weighing about 1kg in total after trimming.
Rosemary sprigs (about six 2 inch ones)
8 butcher's sausages, around 400g
1 hard conference pear
1 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
1 small red chilli
3 cloves garlic
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220℃. Cut the courgette into 3 inch lengths, and then in half vertically. With a spoon, scrape out the spongy inner flesh (and add to your compost to feed to next year's Monster). In a large bowl, toss the pieces with a couple of spoonsful of oil, the zest of the lemon, plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the pieces skin side up in a heavy roasting tin or casserole dish and tuck rosemary sprigs all around and inside. Bake for 20 minutes, or until beginning to colour, then flip the pieces over. It will probably take 40 minutes all told, it's done when a fork goes all the way through easily but don't overdo it.
Meanwhile, chop the chilli and garlic finely. Strip the sausagemeat out of the skins. Heat a spoonful of oil in a cast iron pan until shimmering and crumble the meat into it - you may need two pans, or to do this in batches. If you crowd the pan the meat will steam and not go crispy. Try not to disturb it too much until it has begun to caramelise. Get it nice and brown, adding the garlic and chilli for the final 5 minutes. As it fries, chop the pear into quarters, core and slice each quarter into pieces half a centimetre thick. Remove the meat to a dish and keep warm. In the same pan, fry the pear until it takes a little colour, then add the juice of half the lemon and let it evaporate. Add plenty of salt and pepper, and return the sausage to the pan to combine. Stir in the parsley. Taste for seasoning.
When the marrow is cooked, discard the rosemary and serve with the meat.