There are many things that are best left consigned to the past. Certain ideologies, the song Agadoo and tie dying to name but three, but that formerly celebrated ingredient, bone marrow, should definitely not be one. An ingredient that used to be sought after and fed to our children and convalescents, bone marrow use has fallen by the wayside in recent years at the same time as food waste has risen. Intensive farming has left us with the choice of whatever cut of meat we desire, whenever we desire it, and even vacuum packed to avoid any inconvenience to us. Any body parts that remind us that we are eating an animal (farmed exclusively to provide us with meat) such as the offal and the bones seem to be conveniently kept out of sight.
So minor rant over, but in case you’re not convinced of the benefits of eating offal and bone marrow, I’d advise that you check out any good nature documentary. You’ll notice that any animal that has to expend any energy at all in catching their own prey (obviously we don’t really have to anymore, unless you count the battle of the shops at the weekend) does not go for the fleshy parts straight away. Rather, they’ll go for the internal organs and the bone marrow as the most nutrient dense per calorie animal part available. But if you still remain unconvinced, let me tell you that bone marrow is easily digested, full of essential fatty acids, including omega 3s; vital for healthy brain function, alkylglycerols to help the production of white blood cells and fight infection and provide immune support for people with weakened immune systems as well as providing vitamin A in its complete form, and a wealth of important minerals such as selenium, magnesium, manganese, iron, calcium and zinc. In other words, a lot of very good nutrition for a very low price. The richness it provides will mean that you won’t need anywhere near as much meat, leaving you free to pad out your stew with as much veg or as many pulses as you can. Lentils are my favourite here, but feel free to mix it up a bit; it is a stew after all.
One Pot Bone Marrow Stew
3 anchovies (don’t be put off if you’re not an anchovy lover, they are just to add a slightly salty depth)
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 carrots, roughly chopped
About 1/2 a medium sized swede (aim for around 350g) roughly chopped
500g beef skirt, or chuck steak, diced
6 pieces of bone marrow, around 150g each
200g puy lentils (I suppose other green or brown ones would do, but these are my favourites)
Light beef stock
Firstly, throw the bones and the steak into a roasting pan and roast them in a hot oven (around 200 deg. C) for around 20 minutes, until the meat is nicely browned and the marrow is coloured and bubbling nicely in the bones. Allow to cool. This stage can be done in advance if you like to be organised.
Fry the pancetta, and allow the anchovies to melt in the oil as it fries.
When the pancetta is starting to look crispy, throw in the vegetables and fry gently until they start to take on a slight colour, about ten minutes.
When the vegetables are done, put the lentils, beef and the bones in the pan and just cover with beef stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for around an hour, then scrap the marrow out of the bones if it hasn’t already cooked out. Add the potatoes and let it carry on simmering for another half an hour.
Check your seasonings and stir through some freshly chopped herbs (I think flat leaved parsley is good here, but don’t let that stop you experimenting).
Serve without ceremony in a bowl and with some crusty bread if you are really hungry. Enjoy!