From asparagus risotto to dishes cooked with zero fuss, check out the legendary chef’s opinions on all things culinary…
A is for asparagus
Marco’s sons Luciano and Marco Jr both love asparagus. ‘I make them asparagus risotto with chervil.
It’s quick to prepare, low cost, and delicious,’ he says. ‘Add asparagus heads about five minutes from the end, then add the chopped asparagus stalks about two minutes later.’
B is for British
The chef is famed for flying the flag for great British cuisine: ‘Lancashire hot pot, steak and kidney pie, fish and chips. All done well, they’re delicious. One of my favourite foods is boiled beef and dumplings. If you look at the great Michel Bourdin of the Connaught, he refined British cuisine and showed off how delicious a Lancashire hotpot could be. Or boiled beef, a great trifle, a great syllabub, a great crumble, not forgetting Eton mess.’
C is for chicken stock cubes
The secret to fine dining may just lie in a little packet, says Marco. ‘I buy into simplicity. Knorr is the best ingredient in the world, let’s not kid ourselves. Genius product. Every kitchen should have a packet. The problem is most people don’t know how to use it.’
D is for Delia
Apparently Marco once reduced a young Gordon Ramsay to a sobbing wreck, and he’s called Jamie Oliver a ‘fat chef with a drum kit’. But Delia Smith is a ‘great and rare woman’ as Marco believes she’s done more than anybody else in the UK for good eating at home.
E is for ethical
When Marco announced he was the brand ambassador for turkey producer Bernard Matthews in March, there was widespread surprise. But he’s scathing of campaigns to encourage us to choose free-range produce. ‘I think it’s snobbery of the highest level,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of people who earn £20,000 a year and cannot afford to buy expensive chicken. They might like to buy free-range but they can’t afford it.’
F is for fishing
A rod and bucket of bait proved a sanctuary for Marco when he retired from the scene in 1999: ‘I started doing the things I’d wanted to do all my life, but hadn’t had time for, like fishing, foraging and shooting. I wanted to expose myself to Mother Nature as I’d done when I was a child.’
G is for Guinness
Visit The Yew Tree, the gastropub Marco co-owns in Hampshire, and you may just be able to sup on a pint of Guinness pulled by the man himself. ‘There’s definitely an art to it,’ he says.
H is for ham sandwich
For Marco, taste-bud heaven is a well-made sarnie: ‘My favourite dinner is a ham sandwich – really good quality ham, really great bread, really lovely butter, a bit of piccalilli and a big cup of tea.’
I is for Indian
Given the choice, would we choose a takeaway curry, or Michelin star meal? Marco’s betting on the former: ‘How many people walk into a Michelin-starred restaurant and don’t feel comfortable? If they’re honest, they’d prefer a corned beef sandwich with some Branston’s or a takeaway curry.’
J is for Jersey Royal potatoes
When it comes to new potatoes, Marco says you can’t beat Jersey Royals: ‘Their growing conditions – from the seaweed fertilising the soil and the mild Jersey climate, to the care taken by farmers during the growing process – make them very tasty.’
K is for kids
Marco says he gets more pleasure from cooking at home for his sons than he ever did professionally. Although he wants the boys to be able to cook, there’s no pressure to follow him into the trade. ‘I became a chef because my father was one, just as you might follow your father down the pit,’ he remembers. ‘It’s not like that now.’
L is for ladies
Let’s hear it for the girls. According to Marco: ‘Females have a better palate, a better sense of smell, they never take shortcuts… The weakness in what they do is they’re not as physically strong as men, so are never really given the opportunity. They tend to be pushed into larder, or pushed into pastry.’
M is for McDonald’s
The fast-food chain has turned out to be a handy stopgap on long family journeys: ‘Say I’m driving back from Bournemouth with my children on a Sunday night. The motorway is jammed and my daughter is crying because she’s hungry. What’s wrong with six chicken popcorns? Let’s live in the real world.’
N is for name
Marco was known as Marco White before food critic Egon Ronay met him in 1987. ‘Egon sat me down and started going on about the name Marco. I said Mum was Italian and that’s how I’d ended up with the second name Pierre. A week later there was a whole page in The Sunday Times about this boy Marco Pierre White, and that’s how I got my name.’
O is for obsession
He may have umpteen recipes at his fingertips, but sometimes Marco’s a creature of habit: ‘In The Yew Tree Inn, I went through a phase of having just the rice from the kedgeree on the menu with potted shrimp and fresh peas, all mixed together. I had it at every single meal for an entire week.’
P is for porridge
TV chef Heston Blumenthal may be famous for his inventive cooking, but Marco has spotted a flaw. ‘You can’t reinvent the wheel. Take his snail porridge. Snails have long been served with parsley. There is nothing genuinely amazing about adding a few oats,’ he says.
Q is for queuing
You won’t find Marco standing in line often, but he will for his favourite hot dogs. ‘The best in the world are at Hot Doug’s in Chicago. I actually had to queue to get in, like all the rest of the customers. Their hot dogs with green pickle are amazing.’
R is for rabbit
Marco used to trap rabbits as a child, and on his TV show Marco’s Great British Feast he shot the animal used in the rabbit stockpot recipe. ‘What better way is there of celebrating an animal’s life than by eating it?’ he says.
S is for spaghetti
‘Ever since I was a boy, spaghetti and meatballs has been one of my favourite dinners,’ he remembers. ‘Spaghetti, meatballs and Italian pomodoro [tomato] sauce is very simple but everybody loves it.’
T is for trolley
For Marco, the supermarket is a place for him to peer into other people’s trolleys: ‘Sometimes you’ll see no food, just cleaning products, which tells you they like going to butchers and fishmongers. When you see lots of tins you know it’s someone who can’t cook.’
U is for utensil
Good news. If you’ve invited Marco round for dinner, there is no need for silver service: ‘I like food I can eat with one utensil – a fork or
a spoon. It’s got to be warm, so risotto, soup, pasta…’
V is for venison
Marco’s a keen hunter. ‘There is something nice about the ritual of seeing an animal grow, of hunting it and cooking it oneself. Venison is one of my favourite meats – a full flavoured red meat but also surprisingly lean and healthy,’ he says.
W is for war
‘I’m very proud I cooked for the First Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment at their base in Basra, Iraq,’ Marco said in 2009. ‘I wanted to support the troops – it was nothing to do with supporting the war.’
X is for X-factor
Way before Nigella and Gordon became household names, Marco was the first celebrity chef. At 33, he was the youngest chef to get three Michelin stars, and his mix of temper and talent is legendary. ‘I made cooking rock ’n’ roll,’ he says.
Y is for young people
For some dishes, there’s a bit of a generation gap. ‘At Wheeler’s [of St James’] we do soft roes on toast…But it’s trying to sell them to the younger generation that’s the problem. It’s like the calves’ tongue – 55 and above, they adore them. Any younger and they’re not so keen on it.’
Z is for zero fuss
Marco likes his fish plain and simple: ‘I don’t like sauces. Just good-quality olive oil, lemon and a few crystals of salt, so as to taste the fish.’
Pictures: getty images