It’s all very complicated, yet all very simple. Marrows are called ‘Qargha’ in Maltese (English-speakers: "are-aah baaly mimly"). And the whole family of marrows are first called Qargha and then a second name to describe which member of the family it is.
So, the round marrows would be ‘qargha baghali’, long gourd ‘qargha twil’, pumpkin ‘qargha ahmar’, white squash ‘qargha xitwi’
During the hot Summer months, the marrows mature so quickly. I visited a friend’s field, and you can literally see them grow from one day to the other. They are hidden between the huge leaves, away from the hot sun, close to the damp soil. They give you the impression that they are snug and hidden, almost too comfy. So, we pick 4 similar sized marrows, that are a good portion to serve one each for dinner. Some onions and some of the garlic which is hung to dry, and the field shopping is done.
Very early, when it’s still nice and cool, I run off to the butcher just round the corner from my house and buy a mix of pork and beef mince. A few carrots from the market and a tin of kunserva and with all my shopping done, I have an hour to spare at the beach.
Gozo is a lovely place to live. You can literally fit in an hour at the beach, even twice a day. There is no excuse really. We are surrounded by sea and so close to it that having a beach bag living permanently in your car is not an option. Over to Xlendi, jump in, half an hour of swimming, dry off and back home. No one even noticed I was gone!
The temperature outside can reach the high 30s during these days. It is pretty obvious that it is hot even in the kitchen. So, we use what traditionally has been used for baking during the hotter days: a special pot that cooks like an oven, but sits on the stove. It is called ‘Bormaforn” which means oven pot. You need a special ring, that comes with it, to be placed on the direct flame, then the pot goes over it.
My grandma used to cook in this pot. Food cooked in it does taste very very special. Really, it makes a huge difference. Even a roast chicken with potatoes tastes so much better. Everything is placed in it, just a little sea salt and pepper as seasoning, some oil and water, cover and an hour later, it just smells and tastes like it did when my grandma was cooking for us 20 years ago.
The insides of the marrows are scooped out and used in the sauce. If you have time, the sauce should be made before and cooled before continuing to stuff them. Sauce ready, egg and grated cheese are mixed in, then the marrows are stuffed and placed on top of the layered onions, garlic and potatoes. Sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, a drizzle of oil and some water and the trick is done.
The vegetables will cook and the flavours will mingle and the end result is fantastic!
You might be lucky enough to find one of these pots In a secondhand market or charity bazaar. I did find one for 3 Euros! But you can buy a new one for about 25 Euros. Bake a cake or cook a roast in it. Chicken and potatoes, ‘ghagin il-forn’ (baked pasta) and ‘qargha baghali’ mimli too! All very traditional Gozitan dishes!
The insides of the marrows is used in the sauce. It gives it such a sweet taste and there is no waste. I usually hollow out the marrows and make the sauce the day before. So keep the emptied marrows in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge until needed.
If you do not have a 'bormaforn', you can bake them in a hot oven, uncovered for about an hour. And if you are desperate to own one, just e-mail me.... will see how i can post one over!
And if you might think that it's too much garlic, just bear in mind that the local cloves of garlic are very tiny, yet very strong in flavour.
Leftover sauce can be kept and frozen, then used later with pasta or to stuff other vegetables, like peppers. You could also mix it with some raw rice and some milk and stuff augergines.
In some vegetable oil, cook the minced meats, garlic and bay leafs. When the meat has all browned, start adding the finely chopped onions (2), then the finely diced carrot and marrow. Cook together for about ten minutes, then add the kunserva (tomato paste). If it is too dry add 1 1/4 glass of wine. Simmer, then cover and cook gently for about 30-40 minutes. The sauce should be very thick.
Leave to cool. Then take about 12 large tablespoons of the thick sauce and place in a separate bowl. Mix the grated cheese and eggs and then fill the marrows.
Slice the remaining 2 onions and place in the bottom of the bormaforn. Add some garlic, then the peeled and quartered potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and some vegetable oil, then place the marrows on top. Add about a glass of water, cover and place the pot on the ring. Put on a high heat until the liquid starts to bubble, then reduce the flame to medium, and gently simmer, covered for about 40 minutes. At this point check if the liquid has evaporated and if you need to add some more. Check if the potatoes are well cooked, cover and cook for about 10 more minutes if needed.