Gila is a large type of marrow with pale flesh that is more fibrous than other marrow varieties. Candied gila is a popular pastry filling, adding a unique crunchy texture to sweets. As it takes 2 days to prepare, you can make this ahead and freeze it in an airtight container lined with baking paper for up to 1 year. You will need a sugar thermometer.
- 2.5 kg (about 1 small) gila (shark’s fin melon) (see Note)
- 500 g caster sugar
- 2 x 375 g blocks puff pastry
- 1 egg, whisked with 2 tsp water
- pure icing sugar, to dust
- 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- 3 tsp cornflour, dissolved in 2 tsp water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To crack open gila, double-wrap with a tea towel and hit it with a meat cleaver; do not use a metal object to make contact with the flesh as this can taint it with a metallic, fishy flavour. Crack off pieces of skin and, using your fingers, separate the fleshy strands and place them in a large bowl with 1 tbsp salt. Cover with water and set aside overnight.
Drain gila, then place in a colander lined with a tea towel over a bowl. Cover with another tea towel, then weigh down with a couple of cans to extract as much water as possible. Refrigerate overnight, then drain.
To make sugared eggs, place sugar and 60 ml water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then bring to the boil. Cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes or until syrup reaches 115°C (soft ball stage) on a sugar thermometer. Remove from heat and cool sugar syrup for 10 minutes.
Pass egg yolks through a sieve into sugar syrup and stir until combined. Stir in the cornflour mixture, then return pan over medium heat. Cook, whisking continuously, for 12 minutes or until mixture resembles very thick custard and has reached the ribbon stage. To check, lift your whisk from mixture and do a figure-of-8; if the '8" sits on top of the mixture like a ribbon for 8 seconds before settling back into mixture, you have reached the ribbon stage. Transfer to a bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap and stand for 1 hour to cool.
Meanwhile, to candy gila, place sugar and 375 ml water in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Add 1 kg drained gila and stir to combine. Bring mixture to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until syrup is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 210°C. Roll out each block of pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 24 cm x 34 cm rectangle and place on 2 lined oven trays with the short edge facing you.
Working quickly, spread one-quarter of the candied gila mixture along the centre of each rectangle, leaving a 3 cm border. Top each with half the sugared egg mixture, then top each with half of the remaining candied gila. Brush borders with eggwash and fold the edge of the pastry closest to you over the filling to enclose. Brush with eggwash, then fold the top edge of the pastry over to seal. Press edges together to seal, crimp with a fork, then brush pastries with eggwash. Bake, swapping trays halfway, for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool, then slice each pastry into 6 and dust with icing sugar to serve.
• Gila is most widely available from Asian food shops where it is known as shark’s fin melon.
As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 13, pg75.
Photography by Derek Swalwell