Ah, the marrow.  Kind of seemed like a monstrosity of a vegetable to me when I first encountered it.  So huge, so flavourless, so… perverse? lazy? wasteful? to grow your courgettes so big that they became unappealing. And yes, you can stuff them (as I’ve done) and yes you can make jams and chutneys (as I’ve done) and yes you can grate the flesh into sauces and stews (as I’ve often done) and yes, you can even lacto-ferment them (as I’ve often done and am about to blog on).  But marrows have nonetheless remained “other” to me.

At the same time, I’ve been moved by how some friends genuinely LOVE marrows, and by the way you can hold a huge one like a baby, rocking it in your arms, and by the way people who grow them in their gardens and allotments always go around asking you if you would like one?  And of course you say, “Yes please!”

Apple is for size comparison only.


This time I was thrilled to have happened upon an old recipe recorded in the 70s on Bardsey Island for a Marrow Tart in my treasured copy of S Minwel Tibbot’s 1976 Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes.  To my mind this is the most beautiful record of “traditional” food of Wales, because as a historian and ethnographer, Tibbot’s work reflects respect and affection for the women sharing their old recipes in their old kitchens.  She worked for the National Museum of Wales’ Welsh Folk Museum, who published the book.

Like the Plum Tart in the Wales Gas Board pamphlet, this is a recipe that illustrates a kind of culinary simplicity in the sense that its guided by austerity (basic staples, seasonal eating) which is the beauty in much traditional Welsh food.  It’s so different from the world enabled by supermarkets in which everything is available year round, without any references to a seasonal calendar.

Here below I’ve managed to hack open the huge thing, and hollow it out reserving the seeds and skin for stock:


But you look at this squash and you think… mush!  Which I did.  I chopped it, steamed it, mashed it to a mush, and then let it strain through a sieve for several hours (reserving the liquid, of course, to add to my corn chowder).


This way the cooked marrow actually has a nice buttery squash kind of flavour, and is strong enough to receive other flavours, and is how I will now– top tip– serve it as a veg with butter and salt and pepper and whatever other tantalising herbs and spices are the order of the day.

Doing this certainly ensured that I wouldn’t have a problem with fluid in my pie, recipe for which only called for a handful of dried currants which could sweeten the mix and absorb a little water only.

And I was ready to begin.  I really LOVE the sparseness of the recipe– clearly a kind of written transliteration of someone telling how to make something as much an instruction as a kind of story.

Tarten Bwmpen/ Marrow Pie from Bardsey Island

a marrow
shortcrust pastry
Peel, clean and slice the marrow and boil in a little water until soft. Drain well and leave to cool before mashing it with a fork.  Line an oven proof plat with pastry and cover with the prepared marrow.  (Do not be too generous as the marrow mixture is watery and tends to “run when cooking.)  Add a thick layer of sugar and dot with a few currants. Cover with a second layer of pastry, press edges of pastry layers together and seal.  Bake in a hot oven.

For the shortcrust, I wanted something that felt very basic and referred to the ever-useful and addictive resource Celtnet for their “Plain British Pastry Dough” (or that’s how I scrawled it and can’t seem to find again). It worked perfectly for this purpose.

225 grams flour
1 tsp salt
110 grams butter
25 grams sugar

water as needed


I did add a little mixed spice as I loved that flavour in the dough of the plum tart,  and I used the Light Wheat Flour from the Felin Ganol Watermill in Ceredigion because it’s both light and hearty and I’ve been wanting to try it in pastry.

So here’s the pastry rolled out in a tin (didn’t bake it blind because it doesn’t seem these old time Welsh ladies did) and filled in with the sieved marrow, some raisins in lieu of currants, maybe two tablespoons of sugar and — ok, I strayed from the recipe — about a tablespoon of butter to give the squash a little body.  It was a good impulse.


And here I’ve covered the filling with the pie top, and tried to make it look old fashioned.  I always enjoy making the slits for steam to escape.


And I baked it in a hot over for about 40 minutes, on top of a baking sheet to ensure the bottom got a little extra heat.IMG_9392

My daughter prefers cakes but my son is really with me through lots of my experiments with pies and tarts.  This one he thought was very like an apple pie.  I think the raisins in the filling and the mixed spice in the crust led him towards this association.  I felt more reminded of squash tarts I’ve made– perhaps a simplified Pumpkin Pie even, without custard or intense amounts of  flavour from warm spices.  Of course, mixing the strained marrow with a little cream and egg would be gorgeous too, but this time I wanted to just try to stick to the recipe from Welsh Fare.  And I really really would make little individual tartlets with this marrow filling. And I might sometime try it with an actual courgette, to bump up the flavour that way.

I’ll definitely make this again, because it feels so familiar yet unusual both. And I would totally recommend trying this to you, who may be a bit at a loss with how to use yet another gargantuan marrow.IMG_9393