Whenever I go along to a cookery class or a food event I go with the intention of learning something. In most cases, the tutor or teacher has acquired a certain level of knowledge and is keen to pass it on. In the case of my recent masterclass for food bloggers and writers with Marco Pierre White, we had the added benefit of being shown three recipes by a British chef, who by the age of 33 had been awarded three Michelin stars. That’s quite something and it was certainly a privilege to be invited into Marco’s kitchen again to watch him cook.
It has to be said, that the majority of home cooks don’t go to the trouble of regularly making their own stocks from bones, as they do in most professional kitchens. Having said that, the quality of some ready-made stocks is pretty good and most home cooks are likely to have a stock cube/pot or two in their cupboards.
Since retiring as a professional chef and famously handing back those stars, Marco Pierre White has been able to focus on commercial relationships and on his fleet of restaurants. It was at one of his restaurants, Marco at Chelsea Football Club that he stepped back into his kitchen to cook for us. Marco has also worked as a brand ambassador for Knorr UK for some time and so the recipes we were shown were recipes that he has developed for Knorr. On this occasion, Marco used fresh seasonal produce, basic store cupboard ingredients and some Knorr Stock Pots.
The idea was not to prove that ready-made stocks are any better (or worse) than homemade stock, but to demonstrate how to build layers of flavours in your food. In particular, the day’s cooking focused on ‘one pot’ cooking and on how to enhance the flavour of your finished dish by using fresh fruit juice, such as carrot juice or tomato juice along with a stock pot. Marco also boosts his beef stews by mixing a beef stock pot with prune juice or dark ale. In the same way, a chicken stock pot can be mixed with apple juice when cooking pork.
Having been trained by Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche, as a young chef Marco was taught not to waste anything. And so it was, that Marco used every bit of the asparagus spears, adding the trimmings to the stock, rather than snapping them practically in half and throwing the woody ends away. He was also told by Albert Roux to “never be intimidated by the stove” and that advice is perhaps something that many home cooks could take on board, too.
As Julia Child once said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” I would say that Marco was a little more disciplined than that, but the basic point is the same; don’t be afraid to experiment with flavours and do give new things a go.
Marco’s Top Tips of the Day
Through these three recipes, we were shown some simple tricks on how to build flavours in a one pot dish, without over-seasoning or piling in extra salt.
1. Perfect Pumpkin Soup
Although Marco used a pumpkin in his first recipe, you could just as easily use a butternut squash, sweet potato or even seasonal carrots to get the same idea here.
- When making a soup, add your pumpkin (or seasonal vegetable of choice) to a pan with a little olive oil and cook it down very slowly and gently for around ten minutes. As the pumpkin breaks down, it will start to release its natural sweetness, which is your first layer of flavour.
- By using fresh carrot juice (in place of water) with a chicken or vegetable stock cube/pot you can add additional flavour and sweetness. We teased Marco a little over the likelihood of a home cook making their own carrot juice, but if you have a juicer languishing in the back of your cupboard, bring it out and give it a new lease of life!
- After simmering your pumpkin pieces and carrot juice-laced stock for a further 8-10 minutes, add grated Parmesan cheese and double cream to enrich the soup – third layer of flavour.
- Finally, blend your soup using a stick blender or hand blender. For an extra-special finish, you can also pass the blended soup through a sieve.
Just a few ingredients were used in this recipe, but the result was a smooth, silky, sweet yet savoury soup. My children are big fans of this soup and mixing the carrot juice with the stock is an excellent way of adding extra nutrition to a simple supper.
You can find the recipe and watch a step-by-step video here.
2. Summer Asparagus Risotto
Again, the emphasis is on building flavours whilst keeping the cooking straightforward. Many people are fearful of cooking risotto, but as Marco says, don’t let the stove intimidate you. Prepare your ingredients, set aside twenty minutes, and follow these steps.
- Most chefs will agree with Marco that the key to a good risotto is a flavourful stock that is added to the rice bit by bit. Your stock should be hot as you add in, so once you have made up your stock, keep it simmering in a pan next to you as you add it to the rice one ladleful at a time.
- Following Albert Roux’s no-waste mantra, Marco used every bit of his asparagus spears. Peel each (washed) spear and add the peeled trimmings to your stock for around five minutes or so, then drain or take the trimmings out with a slotted spoon.
- To make the best risotto, you should stir the rice almost constantly whilst slowly adding in your stock, until it is cooked (tender rather than mushy) adding your asparagus or other seasonal vegetables in towards the end of cooking time.
- The final stage is to add some grated Parmesan cheese and butter, but this time, leave it to melt completely before stirring. By doing this, you’ll end up with a much creamier texture – if you mix the Parmesan and butter as soon as you add it in, the Parmesan will seize.
We love risotto as a family and I will definitely use my washed asparagus and other trimmings as a way of adding more flavour to my stock in future.
You can find a Spring Vegetable Risotto recipe here.
3. Marco’s Chicken Casserole
Marco’s top tip in this recipe was to use a pre-roasted chicken. This is because chicken cooked on the bone (and roasted) will add more flavour and the meat will also be tenderer. If you are roasting a chicken for dinner, you could roast a second one and use it to make a quick casserole. If you are pushed for time, you could even buy a pre-roasted chicken from the supermarket.
- To make a quick casserole in less than twenty minutes, use a chicken stock cube/pot to make a blond roux – a base of butter mixed with flour and cooked over a gentle heat. Use the made-up stock in place of milk and keep stirring to make a smooth, thick and flavourful sauce. No additional salt is needed, just a twist of pepper at the end.
- Add your cooked chicken pieces to the sauce and your seasonal vegetable and cook for a further ten minutes.
Having tried Marco’s casserole and more recently at home his recipe for Chicken Chasseur, I can now see that you can cook a casserole in around twenty minutes without compromising on the flavour. Using flour at the beginning, by either making a roux or coating your chicken pieces in flour before pan-frying, will add to the thickness of your finished sauce. No more watery casseroles!
See some more chicken recipes here
After the high heat of the kitchen, we were all keen to get out into the restaurant to try the finished dishes. I certainly came away with plenty of new tips to try and incorporate into my kitchen at home. I hope you’ve found them useful, too!
With many thanks to Knorr and Marco Pierre White for an informative day. Knorr did send me away with some stock cubes, but the stock cubes did not influence me to write about my experience.
I will be working with Knorr and selected food producers over the coming months to try more of Marco’s recipes at home and will be offering you the chance to win some ingredients, too.
Additional landscape photos by Knorr.
Have you ever tried mixing stock with fruit juice? Are you a fan of Marco and his cooking?!