Smoked bone marrow butter with braised lentils
I can pinpoint one particular moment when my perspective on food changed. It involved a conversation in the media driven by a prominent food writer regarding the “value” of bone marrow and the concept of charging money for what is seen as a waste product. At the time I was serving a single, split marrow bone that was presented in a fairly grotesque fashion, propped up on a wooden board. It was a dish strongly influenced by Fergus Henderson’s bone marrow toast at the iconic St. JOHN restaurant in London.
The ensuing debate solidified my thinking about the responsibility to represent all cuts and parts of the animal, no matter how they are perceived, and not just to eat “high on the hog”, as Henderson so aptly states.
Bone marrow is a fantastically adaptable product. Some love the texture of it simply roasted in the bone, while for others there needs to be some treatment to hide the perpetual reminder of its origins. I find that smoking and whipping the marrow so it resembles butter preserves the product. Not only can it be kept in this manner for weeks, it also makes it infinitely more approachable. Once you have processed the marrow this way its use becomes as adaptable in a recipe as butter. I love to use it to enrich rice or grain dishes, finish sauces or to work into pastry as a more decadent shortening than lard.
There is no denying the confronting nature of bone marrow. But I choose to celebrate it – or, to quote Henry David Thoreau, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.
- 2kg marrow bones (split lengthways)
- 300g puy lentils
- 500ml beef stock
- 200g carrot
- 20ml grapeseed oil
- 20ml sherry vinegar
- 1 cup young celery leaves
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 6 anchovies
- Soak the bones overnight in fresh water in the refrigerator.
- Drain the water, then place on a roasting tray and into a smoker or barbecue and cook at 190ºC for 18 minutes. The marrow should set with no sign of blood but not get so hot that it begins to liquefy.
- Spoon the marrow out of the bone and pass it through a fine sieve into a steel mixing bowl. If you have a KitchenAid, place it into that bowl and whisk the marrow until it cools. It should become white and fluffy. Otherwise use a hand whisk – it will just take longer to aerate.
- Cook the lentils in the stock until they are just al dente (about 15 minutes on a low simmer), then remove from the heat.
- Dice the carrot and cook in the oil for about five minutes until they begin to soften. Pour the lentils and the remaining stock into the pan and continue cooking for a further five minutes. Once the liquid has mostly reduced, pull the lentils off the heat and add the vinegar.
- Stir through the marrow butter and agitate to release the starch that will help bond the fat of the marrow. Adjust for salt and then spoon onto serving plates. Mix the celery leaf, shallot and anchovies and then scatter over the top of the hot lentils.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 22, 2020 as "Lovely bones".
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