Greatest recipes ever: Fergus Henderson’s bone-marrow salad


‘A dish that has quickly become a St John classic. It combines wobbling, meaty marrow with crisp toast, grains of sea salt and a slightly piquant parsley salad to cut through any richness. One of the great dishes of all time’

Tom Parker Bowles

Bone marrow and parsley salad

Extract from Fergus Henderson’s Nose to tail eating: A Kind of British Cooking

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Published by Bloomsbury in 1999

To serve 4


12 7cm-8cm (2in-3in) pieces of middle veal marrowbone
A healthy bunch of flat parsley, picked from its stems
2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 modest handful of capers (extra-fine if possible)
Juice of one lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt and pepper
A good supply of toast
Coarse sea salt

This is the one dish that does not change on the menu at St John. The marrowbone comes from a calf’s leg; ask your butcher to keep some for you. You will need teaspoons or long thin implements to scrape your marrow out of the bone.

Do you recall eating Sultana Bran for breakfast? The sultana to bran-flake ratio was always a huge anxiety, to a point, sometimes, that one was tempted to add extra sultanas, which inevitably resulted in too many sultanas, and one lost that pleasure of discovering the occasional sweet chewiness in contrast to the branny crunch. With administering such things as capers, it is very good to remember Sultana Bran.

Put the bone marrow in an ovenproof frying pan and place in a hot oven. The roasting process should take about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bone. You’re looking for the marrow to be loose and giving, but not melted, which it will do if left too long (traditionally the ends would be covered to prevent seepage, but I like the colouring and crispness).

Meanwhile, lightly chop your parsley, just enough to discipline it, mix it with the shallots and capers, and, at the last moment, dress.

Here is a dish that should be completely seasoned before leaving the kitchen, rendering a last-minute seasoning unnecessary by the actual eater; this, especially in the case of coarse sea salt, gives texture and uplift at the moment of eating.

My approach is to scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast and season with coarse sea salt. Then a pinch of parsley salad on top of this and eat. Of course, once you have your pile of bones, salad, toast, and salt, it is ‘liberty hall’.

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