02 October 2011

gout: i can feel it in my bones

Following our first Random Recipe Challenge last week, we're going to try and make it a regular occurence in the Macaroon household. Dom over at Belleau Kitchen only demands once-monthly participation (see September's round up here) but we enjoyed the process, so last weekend we sat on the floor next to our recipe book shelf and debated the best way to select another random recipe, before Dom had even had the time to set another challenge (unbearable swats).

The life of an expatriate is one of half belonging. Not in the weighty philosophical sense, but literally you only have half of your belongings. When packing our shipping container 18 months ago, we only included those recipe books that we regularly use (Jamie, Nigella, Delia), plus a few that we thought that the sultry vapours of the East might inspire us to use (Easy Vietnamese and Japanese Cooking... turns out the East isn't as sultry as we anticipated and they remain unopened). Anyway, I expected that this self-selected collection of favoured books might yield a random recipe that we were already familiar with.

How wrong I was. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

To choose the book, my husband appeared with a tea towel tucked inside his glasses, a pair of oven gloves on his hands and a butter knife clenched in his clumsy fist. He then turned around three times and stabbed at the shelf. This vision was so peculiar, unprompted and out of character that I didn't even think to grab a camera, I was rendered inert and speechless.

Unsurprisingly, given the shelf inches that her books occupy, Nigella was the predictable winner with Kitchen. I insisted on using my trusty friend, the online random number generator, to pick the page number: 400. The recipe is evidence that we didn't cheat. We read it slowly and silently before I physically recoiled from the page, brain racing for any excuse to get out of this project that I had instigated. Minetta Marrow Bones. There is no way I would select this recipe over... well, anything else in her book.

I've read a lot about marrow bones in Singapore's trendiest restaurant reviews. So they must be delicious... right? But I'm hardly the target audience for those places (gently-perspiring expat with roots, unpainted toenails and clothes from Uniqlo... sorry ma'am, we don't seem to have your reservation). If bone marrow is the culinary zeitgeist, it's much too sophisticated for normo-bods like me. And I just don't think it sounds very tasty.

The image Nigella paints of her and her Jimmy Choo-wearing girlchums licking organic marrow juice from their perfumed forearms in her superstyled West London kitchen... (okay, okay, she didn't exactly say that) well it's just so much more than intimidating. It's frankly terrifying in ways that I'm helpless to explain.

So imagine my surprise on arriving - shifty and anxious - at the Swiss Butchery in Tanglin (one of the fanciest butchers I could think of) where my request for beef marrow bones was cheerfully met with directions to an entire freezer full of the things. When I, apologetically, asked if they could cut the frozen bones length-ways, a dazzling Singaporean smile and "no problem ma'am!" was the response. Dammit. I had secretly hoped that I'd be able to get out of this by virtue of not being able to find the ingredients. This certainly wasn't my usual friday supermarket run of beansprouts, noodles and Tiger beer. One blisteringly expensive sourdough rye loaf and a bottle of plonk later, and I felt I was shopping like a real tai tai.

We cooked them exactly as directed: lots of seasoning, into a hot oven for 20 minutes, more seasoning and loads of fresh herbs, and then scooped out onto garlic-rubbed sourdough toast.

While sourcing the ingredients was much more charming than I had anticipated, I have to say, the final product... well it just wasn't. My husband thought they were alright, nothing more effusive than that, but I just don't get it. The marrow had turned into hot fat jelly, and the only flavours seemed to be of the salt, pepper, thyme and parsley that we had added.

I'm not a massive fan of pure, smooth, gelatinous fat (a layer running through some deliciously marinated belly pork excepted) and combined with the red wine, this meal just felt like gout on toast.

If gout were caused by eating fat.

Which it's not.

But you get the idea. For some reason all I could think of was ruddy-faced, gouty old men sucking on bones. Not a hint of aspirational Chelsea supper club I'm afraid.

The garlic-rubbed sourdough with a few hastily roasted tomatoes and rocket leaves were, in my provincial opinion, vastly superior in every way. So, proof that I'm not the target audience for the more bleeding edge of Singapore's restaurants (as if there was ever any doubt). But I'm glad I tried this at home rather than taking the plunge at great expense in public. It means I won't feel curious to eat it again.

Our random recipe host, Dom, has now set his October challenge, pairing bloggers from around the world to select one another's random recipe. I'm thrilled to have been paired with a lady from Scotland, and can't wait to see what the randomness generates. Whatever it is, it's bound to be an improvement over gout on toast.


  1. I am so MEGA impressed that you did this!!!!
    And I know I would have loved the marrowbones. I love to stick the end of a teaspoon in a bone and dig out all the marrow but have never actually split a big bone like this and made a proper dish out of the marrow.
    Tell Mr Macaroon I think he is hilarious.
    Once you get back here, we can definitely make this into some kind of random recipe have your friends round for tea thing!

  2. It's a date Lou!

    Talking of hilarious, his praise of the bone marrow was actually "it's not as bad as the pig's arse I ate in Tokyo". Which I think is the very definition of being condemned with faint praise. I'll tell you about the pig's arse incident another time!

  3. Slightly random comment here but I just read your quote over at Tales f a Tei Tei about childhood being so fleeting. Thank you - I needed to read those words today x

  4. I love the image of the book selecting process ;)

    I have to say, I would not have been able to stick with the marrow recipe, I would have to cheat! I love the idea of the randomness, but I'm going with a much more fussy-eater friendly approach to using my cookbooks more!

  5. Hi Jodi, hope you're doing okay. I can't take any credit for that nugget of advice, I can't remember where I read it, but it does strike a chord with anyone I mention it to. Take care.

    Pinkundine - I'm dreading the inevitable day that a really super fishy recipe is chosen through this process, because that's something I find very hard to stomach... but who knows, maybe if I force myself I'll learn to like it... maybe!

  6. I agree with pinkundine, I would not have been able to stick with the recipe either. You are a brave, brave woman. Even if it didn't taste worth all the effort, I really enjoyed reading about the process and your presentation was lovely.

  7. Awww Lydia and Pinkundine, my Mum would be so proud! I don't think I've ever been considered to have a particularly adventurous palate before ;0)

  8. hello there little macaroon. Glad to have found your blog. I really like bone marrow and sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this particular recipe.
    Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you'll be visiting again for the next instalment of the chocolate cake hall of fame :)
    Have a great day! I look forward to your entry for this month's random recipe challenge.

  9. Hi Michael, welcome along! I'll certainly be following your autumn chocolate odyssey. Good ol' Nigella eh?! So I guess you'll have the recipe for these marrow bones in your own cookbook collection - time to visit your local butcher (rather you than me!)


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