‘Simplicity is the key to greatness,’ Marco Pierre White tells me as I join him in the kitchen…
Things are heating up in the kitchen on Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Wars (Channel 5, Thursdays 8pm).
The former enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene is back (knife in hand and strut in situ). So I joined him at the stove to find out his pet cooking hates and top foodie tips.
Over the course of the afternoon I sat in the kitchen at his Stamford Bridge restaurant and watched him at work.
As the delicious scents of pumpkin soup and then risotto filled the air he told me, ‘Cooking is a philosophy unless it’s pastry in which case it’s chemistry.’
And Marco’s philosophy is an easy one to follow. For him it’s all about keeping things simple. ‘Simplicity is the key to greatness,’ he states. ‘Allow mother nature to be the star and show herself off.’
If there’s one thing you won’t find in Marco’s kitchen, it’s a wooden spoon. ‘Use a spatula,’ he positively growled. ‘Wood has a taste of its own. It’s not hygienic. The contestants on my new show keep using wooden spoons. It does not impress me.’
Marco, who claims to have never had a nice meal in Wales, is especially not a fan of lava bread. ‘No, not for me,’ he says. ‘I like the idea of it, but how do you get rid of that slime?!’
And when it comes to getting children eating good food he firmly believes you need to get them in the kitchen at a young age.
‘Get them to invest in a dish and they’ll eat it,’ he says. ‘If eating is fun and they are encouraged to share in the choosing and preparation they are also much more likely to eat it. Children eat by colour as well so green pesto pasta, bright tomato sauce and shiny olives will always look appealing to a child.’
Marco is the face Knorr. For recipe videos, cooking tips and techniques from Marco Pierre White log on to www.knorr.co.uk
Marco’s Pumpkin soup
2–3tbsps olive oil
2kgs pumpkin, peeled and chopped into approx. 2.5cm chunks
1.2ltrs fresh carrot juice or water
2 Knorr Vegetable Stock Pots
50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
100ml double cream
1. Heat a large heavy casserole dish on the hob. Add in a splash of olive oil, spread evenly in the dish and then add in the diced pumpkin.
2. Cover the dish and cook over a medium heat for 10–12 minutes, stirring now and then, until the pumpkin begins to break down.
3. Add in the carrot juice (it’s important to use fresh carrot juice as bottled can be very acidic) and then the 2 Knorr Vegetable Stock Pots, stirring until the Stock Pots have dissolved. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and the double cream; these will enrich the soup, adding flavour and a smooth texture. Bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from direct heat.
5. Working in batches, transfer the pumpkin mixture to a jug blender and process each batch for 2 minutes until smooth. Alternately, use a hand blender to process the soup in batches until smooth.
6. For an extra smooth texture, the processed soup can then be passed through a fine sieve, using the back of a ladle to push it through.
7. Gently heat through the blended, sieved soup and serve with extra grated Parmesan on the side, seasoning it with a twist of freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with… Freshly grated Parmesan to sprinkle over the soup and a twist of freshly ground black pepper
1 Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot
1tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, very finely chopped
½ orange or red pepper, very finely chopped
175g risotto rice
100ml dry white wine
½ carrot, finely diced
75g baby broad beans, fresh or frozen and thawed
½ courgette, finely diced
50g asparagus tips, chopped
2tbsps grated parmesan cheese
1. First make your stock by dissolving the Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot in 500ml of boiling water, stirring until thoroughly dissolved.
2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish. Add in the shallot and orange pepper and fry very gently for 3 minutes, stirring often, so that it softens but without browning at all. By doing this you’re removing the water content of the vegetables and allowing their natural sweetness to come out.
3. Add in the risotto rice, and mix in thoroughly, coating with the olive oil.
4. Pour in the white wine and bring to the boil, allowing it to boil for 2 minutes to remove its acidity. Work your rice as it cooks, to ensure even cooking. Working your rice is a very important part of cooking risotto properly.
5. Add in around 100ml of the Knorr Vegetable stock and stir in the carrots and broad beans. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes more, then add in another 100ml of the stock and cook stirring for 3 minutes more. Lastly, add in another 100ml and cook stirring for 3 minutes more.
6. Add in the asparagus and courgettes, together with the remaining stock and cook, stirring and working the rice, until the rice is tender, for around 4–6 minutes.
7. Once the rice is cooked to your taste, mix in the peas and remove from direct heat.
8. Sprinkle in the parmesan and add in the butter in pieces, allow to stand for a few seconds to allow the parmesan and butter to melt, then mix in thoroughly. If you don’t like Parmesan, then don’t add any. It’s your decision. Serve at once.