Dreaming of a White Christmas!
Marco Pierre White is an influential British chef and restaurateur popularly known as the Godfather of modern-day cooking. He changed the landscape of British cooking and is an icon looked upon by a whole new generation of budding chefs and restaurateurs who take inspiration from him and consider White as their ‘countertop muse’. He has mentored numerous famed and popular chefs of the present day. In 1999 Marco retired from being a chef to become a restaurateur. He has also made several appearances on cookery shows and cooking-related reality competitions and most recently joined the BBC Maestro series offering a 35 lesson online cookery course. We are incredibly proud and honoured to be working with Marco and the Rudloe Arms as well as a string of the MPW restaurants and look forward to working more with Marco and his team in 2021.
Emma joined Marco a week before Christmas for a long relaxed cup of tea and chatted about The Rudloe Arms, arts and crafts, wildlife restoration, his love of the country over the city, Christmas and of course all things food. In fact, we chatted so long the interview will be in two parts!
In our first interview, we talk about the importance of supporting local businesses, Christmas and all things food.
Marco is a genuinely welcoming, candid, humble and generous person and his gastronomic passion shines through.
“I like simplicity, I like calm, I’m very happy when I’m in the countryside”.
The truth is I was always a country boy rather than a city boy. As a child I lived on the very outskirts of Leeds, I would walk about 100 meters to the top of my road and go across the golf course onto the Harewood Estate which was designed by Capability Brown so my childhood playground was the estate. I used to like fishing and deer stalking. As a child I really wanted to be a gamekeeper, I never really wanted to be a chef.
“Everything we do at Rudloe is about nature”
Have you seen the big hole we are digging? We dug one pond this summer and we’re now digging another one – the current one is stocked with tench, mirror carp and common carp. This new pond is five times bigger and will be stocked with pike, perch, rudd and tench so it’s all about pondlife.
When we first came here there were no muntjac or roe deer, now we have lots in the woods. We didn’t have any hedgehogs either, now we have lots because we’ve been providing the habitat for them. Our next blog will be more about Rudloe and wildlife restoration.
“It’s really very important, where possible, for restaurants and hotels to buy locally”
Okay, the reality is you can’t buy fish locally as we aren’t by the sea so you have to go direct to Looe or Weymouth but a lot of the produce Heritage supplies us with is literally from their neighbouring farms and things like strawberries Heritage can supply from the New Forest for a large part of the year, it’s not immediately local, but it’s just under an hour away.
We have a duty and responsibility as a large part of our business is from the local community on the whole so we all have to work together and spend together to support each other.
We get our turkeys locally, they are woodland and nettle fed and are the most delicious turkeys I’ve ever eaten. They harvest the nettles to feed the turkeys, the woods are attached to a barn where they go to roost. For me it’s about the life the animal has lived, it’s not about a label saying free-range or organic.
I’m not one of those people though who condemns modern-day farming methods either as it makes food affordable. I’ve seen Bernard Matthews criticized over the years but they made turkey affordable, if it wasn’t for Bernard Matthews as a child we may not have had turkey on our table at Christmas so I’m not one to disapprove if it isn’t free-range or organic. If you’ve got the budget buy the more expensive turkey but not everyone can afford that.
“At Christmas, you’ve got to have a strategy”
I work with the boys, I tend to make the gravy, very few people make good gravy. I do it in the old traditional way, I use the gizzards, hearts and liver. I also use the fat from the turkey (Jus Gras) which are the juices with the fat, the difference the fat makes is sensational.
I keep Christmas very, very simple. For example, the recipe I shared recently for sage and onion stuffing is simply 50% Paxo, 50% good sausage meat, I like it, I was brought up on it.
I also use frozen sprouts, not fresh sprouts, that’s the way I was taught in the Gavroche. Take off the dark green leaves, and roast them in butter in a large sauté pan (or frying pan), what happens is the sprouts absorb the butter. Let’s be honest a sprout needs a good frost and there’s no better frost than the freezer. They are soft, buttery and delicious and this is what we used to serve with a grouse or other game birds when I was at Le Anglais.
You shouldn’t try and make everything on Christmas Day – braise your red cabbage a day or even two days in advance, you can make your swede puree and gravy a day in advance too.
The reality is most people buy a turkey that’s too large too and that’s why they tend to be dry. Get a fresh 12lb turkey which is perfect for a family and will only take 2 hours to cook and will fit in a domestic oven. Why get a huge bird!
If you’re cooking a game bird buy a hen bird, never buy a big stack as the meat is too coarse. If roasting pheasant you should only roast the hen pheasant not cock pheasants as the hen is so much more delicious.
Check out some of Marco’s fuss-free Christmas recipes here.
Marco’s Boxing Day Turkey Cocktail
Time: 1 hour
Turkey tastes better the next day because the flavour improves with time, and a turkey cocktail really embellishes the leftovers. It’s basically a turkey salad and can be served as individual portions or in a large bowl. The meat from half a thigh will serve two people easily,
If you do have any leftover turkey you can use the turkey scraps to make a delicious turkey cocktail (basically a prawn cocktail but with turkey instead) with the mayonnaise I make a reduction of my gravy and add it to the mayonnaise and put some cranberry sauce on top of the thigh meat and on top I do a little bacon crumb and diced egg white, a wafer piece of turkey skin and parsley, I based it on an ice cream pudding!
From two thighs, and adapting this recipe accordingly, you’ll get enough meat for 8-10 starters or 4-6 main courses. For extra style, garnish with a wafer piece of crispy turkey skin.
- 1 rasher smoked streaky bacon
- 1 egg
- 1/2 a turkey thigh
- A little leftover gravy, to taste
- 2 dessert spoon mayonnaise
- 1/4 of an iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp cranberry sauce
- Finely chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Grill or fry the bacon until crispy, remove from pan and set aside to cool.
Hard-boil the egg, then cool, peel and finely dice the white (discard the yolk).
Remove the skin from the turkey thigh and finely slice the meat. If you’re making the crispy skin to garnish, preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4.
Slice the skin into strips and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Cover with baking parchment, then place another baking tray on top to weigh it down.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until crisp. Cool.
Whisk the gravy into the mayonnaise, tasting as you go, so it’s just right for you. Cut the cooled bacon into crumbs.
Layer each serving glass with lettuce, turkey meat and cranberry sauce. Spoon over the mayonnaise mixture.
Garnish with the bacon, egg white and parsley. Top with the crisp turkey skin, if using.
For more boxing day recipes see here
As a pescatarian, I always end up cooking more than one Christmas centrepiece. This year I’m cooking a turkey crown, a beef wellington and something for myself too! What would you recommend I cook?
Why don’t you just make a turkey wellington for the meat-eaters? Prepare it exactly the same as you would do for the beef wellington. And then do a salmon wellington and use the mushrooms too, simplify things.
You need a thick piece of fish so it doesn’t overcook and roll the pastry thinner so the heat penetrates quicker. When you do something like a fish en croûte the reality is you bring it out the oven when the pastry is brown. It’s like when people make fish pie they bring it out when the potato is brown, you should never really cook fish pie in the oven, you should poach the fish in the sauce, put it in the dish so it’s two-thirds cooked then put the potato on and add the cheese. I put chopped eggs in mine too and then put it under the grill, finally add some breadcrumbs, very traditional.
So just do a turkey wellington and your Salmon Wellington and be done with it! It’s a nice alternative to Christmas, easy and simple.
Stickerly Delicious Puddings…
My favourite English pudding is Mr Coulson’s sticky toffee pudding, my favourite French dessert is something like a Tarte Tatin or a lemon citron tart.
I’m not really into those fiddly little puddings, they might look pretty on the plate but be generous with your puddings because when something is delicious you want more. I don’t get fluff, fluff bores me, it doesn’t capture my imagination.
When you can make something so deliciously simple you have to be generous with it, if it’s made to perfection there’s nothing more ‘stickerly delicious’. (The stickerly delicious phrase creates laughter in the room) – That’s pretty good– Stickerly Delicious, there’s the headline!
Marco’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
Suitable for Vegetarians
Anyone can buy a Christmas pudding, but this is the best sticky toffee pudding you can make. When done properly it is (along with bread and butter pudding and trifle) one of the great British puddings.
- 250g (9oz) dates, pitted
- 250ml (9fl oz) water
- 220g (8oz) self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100g (3 1/2oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 250g (9oz) demerara sugar
- 2 eggs
- 40g (1 1/2oz) chopped dates
- Vanilla icecream, cream or custard, to serve
For the sauce
- 250g (9oz) butter
- 250g (9oz) demerara sugar
- 250ml (9fl oz) double cream
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Place the pitted dates and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and cool. Use a hand blender to blend the boiled dates to a purée.
Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Put the butter in a mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, beat until softened, then beat in the demerara sugar.
Mix in the eggs one at a time, adding the flour a little bit at a time as you go. Add the cooled date purée and chopped dates and stir.
Butter a traybake tin and transfer the pudding mixture into it. Bake for about 25-30 minutes – if the surface ripples when you tap it, it needs another 5 minutes. Now make the sauce.
To make the sauce
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar, stir and cook on a low-medium heat until smooth and the sugar has dissolved.
Pour in the cream, stir and continue to cook. Add the lemon juice and stir.
To serve, cut the sponge into squares, pour the caramel sauce over and serve with vanilla ice-cream, cream or custard.
You were wine tasting last time we came to visit, was there anything really nice in that selection? What should we be looking out for?
There are a lot of very obscure wines which are delicious and affordable, as well as the obvious wines – that’s what you have to look for, you might have to taste 20 – 30 wines to find the ones which are delicious but also represents value.
When I used to run my 3* Michelin, going back over 20 years ago (when I used to cook all the time) our house wines were £75. I really don’t think a house wine should be the cheapest wine on the list, you are paying a bit more but you are getting something truly tasty which you would normally have to spend 4,5, 6, 7 times the price.
So you could buy a £600 bottle of wine, it’s no better, the £600 bottle just has a name the other ones don’t. There are those obscure winemakers who make sensational wine but they haven’t got the marketing budgets or the name yet.
When I was a boy Chateau Musar, a Lebanese wine, which is truly delicious is now very expensive, all those years ago we had it on the wine list for £12 a bottle, they obviously marketed it really well so more people now know about.
It’s like a Chateau Gaby, go back x amount of years Gaby was cheap as was Cloudy Bay when they first entered the markets.
“If you look at what is on the radar now it’s an Alvarinho”
This Portuguese wine is amazing, more and more people are buying it, in ten years’ time it will no longer be a good value, affordable wine but today you can buy a bottle for around £35 in a restaurant, it’s delicious, especially with fish.
Who would be your dream dinner guests (dead or alive):
I would always choose interesting people, I will go down the road of all dead guests so I don’t offend anyone that is living who is not included on my list!
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is in my opinion the greatest engineer in the World ever. Someone like Napolean who was extraordinary and would be really interesting to listen to. Then I’d add an artist like Picasso, a genius. I’d invite Diego Giacometti, an extraordinary swiss sculptor and designer, in fact, I’d add his brother Alberto Giacometti too. Alberto did some amazing sculptures and Diego was the greatest when it came to decorative arts.
I’d also invite members of the Bugattis family. The Bugattis were a family of artists who just happened to end up making cars. Carlo was a furniture designer, then there was Rembrandt who was the greatest animal sculptor the world has ever produced and Ettore Bugattis who created the motorcar. Ettore’s son Jan continued with the motorcar. So this family must have been without question the most talented family of the twentieth century.
Lastly, I’d invite Andy Warhol, he would also be amazing to have around my dinner table. I have two of his Bird’s eye campaign pictures in the restaurant which show the starts of his pop art style which took the world by storm in the 1960s – we all remember the iconic Marilyn Monroe print.
Which vegetables are top of your list?
I like celeriac a lot, either as a puree or a fondant of celeriac (rather than using potatoes). I like all vegetables when we make a shepherd’s pie we cut our swede and carrots into cubes but we don’t boil them, we cook them in butter on the stove until they are almost roasted to intensify the flavour, if you boil them you lose the flavour.
I like beetroot a lot as well which goes wonderfully with a roast pigeon or a roast saddle of hare, a totally sensational pairing, certain vegetables work really well with certain dishes, you can also add roast fig to add a bit of sweetness to the earthiness. A pig’s trotter with a celeriac puree is also incredible.
“I only like one vegetable at a time, I don’t like too much food on my plate”.
If I have a pig’s trotter then I just want pomme puree, parsnip or celeriac puree, that’s all I want, but a generous amount of it. Very often if you go to a restaurant you get all this garnish and a little line of sauce, the ratios are all wrong.
If I’m eating my steak with one vegetable it’s very often that you haven’t got enough sauce, just a streak on the plate for my steak!
What’s happened is there is too much emphasis, in my opinion, in the presentation now, this is why food tends to be served tepid and I like my food hot.
Chefs are taking too long to put the dish together as they are looking at the visual more than the eating and that is the problem, you have to look at the eating, it’s all about the eating.
What are your favourite cheeses?
Brie with sliced truffles is delicious– slice the top off the brie add the truffles and put the lid back on. Leave it to rest and serve at room temperature. It’s an absurdly delicious combination, the mix of earthy truffles with the savoury cheese is just perfection.
I do love all cheese though, I’m also particularly partial to a buttered Jacob’s cream cracker with a really tasty cheddar cheese.
What is your favourite meat?
Pork or late-season lamb as it has more flavour.
What are your favourite drinks to have?
It depends on the time of day and time of year. I have a cup of tea in the morning, a glass of wine at lunch with my meal, Rose wine in the Summer with ice cubes is delicious and I mostly drink water in the evening.
What do you like to do to relax when you aren’t working?
My work is my relaxation, I actually find holidays stressful and I really dislike shopping. I watch a lot of documentaries, in particular WW2 documentaries. I also really love watching David Attenborough, his voice is very calming. I didn’t read much as a child but I read a lot now, although I often have to go back and read something twice as I’m dyslexic.
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We are really grateful for the generosity in time given to us and wish Marco, his family and his team a restful Christmas and a very profitable new year. Look out for our next instalment from our interview with Marco soon.