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Marrow bones are the thick, fat, big ones, usually from the cow’s legs. I think. Google seems vague about it. The benefits of bone marrow have been appreciated for ages, mainly by turning the bones into the best, nutritious broth. But not so long ago chefs discovered that the gooey fat scraped from inside of the roasted bones – so basically what you would normally throw away – can be sold to punters as a ten quid starter. Money for old bone, eh?
For those who think it’s a bit gross to suck out marrow, a bit like drinking blood, let me point out how madly trendy it has become of late. There are some urban legends attaching superpowers, nutrition-wise, to bone marrow; probably devised by devoted paleo dieters: the image of a Neolithic man waving a big bone about and setting down to suck the marrow from it in one long slurp sounds irresistible.
Marrow does contain omega-3 fatty acids and a host of minerals but it is mainly fat. It is delicious, creamy and it requires no particular cooking skills to make a tasty appetiser – except you need to own a junior hacksaw or buy from amenable butcher who will saw the bones into portions. Spread it on toast or a crust of freshly baked sourdough and butter will never taste as good to you. Roasted marrow with flaky salt sprinkled over it is the essence of umami.
I hunt for marrow whenever I’m eating osso buco or a rib of beef or veal so I couldn’t miss the board outside my butcher’s offering marrow bones for some ridiculously low price. That’s it, on top of all the praise sung above: bones are super cheap, they just need to be roasted for about 20 minutes and the absolute feast is all yours.
bone marrowServings: 4-6Time: 20 minutes
- 2-4 marrow bones, sawed horizontally into 7cm/3in pieces
- For the topping:
- 5 anchovy fillets, drained or 1 tbsp. anchovy paste
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- ½ bunch parsley
- ½ bunch tarragon, leaves stripped
- ½ bunch thyme, leaves stripped
- a few sprigs of dill
- ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- To serve:
- slices of rustic bread, toasted
- flaked salt
1. If you didn’t ask the butcher to cut the bones for you, don’t panic. You can cut them with a junior hacksaw, sawing an incision around the middle; then place a large knife in the crack and tap with a mallet or a rolling pin to chop the bone piece in half.
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.
3. Line a large baking tray with parchment and sit the bones on it upright; on the even edge. Bake for 20 minutes.
4. To make the topping, pound the anchovies, then herbs with salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar to a paste; if using anchovy paste, start with the herbs and stir the paste in at the end. Taste for seasoning – it should be seriously salty and sour.
5. To serve, place a dot of the herb paste atop each piece of bone, sprinkle with sumac and salt flakes. Serve with long thin spoons and/or knives, plenty of rustic bread or sourdough, the remaining topping and more sumac and salt flakes.
6. The roasted bones will keep in the fridge if not all used and can be reheated in warm oven. Alternatively scoop the marrow out of them and decant into a small tub.