‘Cooking with kids can be hell’
Marcus Wareing is a serious chef.
Whether you’ve watched him on MasterChef, Great British Menu, or in one of his three restaurants, it’s a word you’d definitely use to describe him. And he wouldn’t disagree.
“I am serious,” says the 46-year-old. “I’m serious because I need to take my job seriously, and because there is a lot at stake. I take everything I do seriously, but I also now enjoy a lot more and am a little more open-minded.”
It’s perhaps this new, (slightly) more relaxed persona that has brought about his latest release, Marcus At Home, which is fit to burst with recipes that very normal folk can try their hand at. And it’s all been inspired by family cooking.
“I love watching my family enjoy food that we’ve made together and my wife makes a brilliant lasagne,” says the father-of-three, who’s married to Jane, 45. “I think now, because the children are more aware of food and are trying more, we as a family are starting to diverge into bigger flavours, spicier food, and just a lot more variety. The kids are not so young any more – they love their food and are growing up. It’s really challenged me to do something I’ve never done before, which is focus on food at home.”
Wareing – who describes himself as “driven, precise and friendly” – is a lot more easygoing than you might imagine. He’s perfectly polished (his shirt is impeccably ironed and his beard is as neatly shaved as you’d expect his Parmesan to be), but calm and keen to put me at ease.
“When I think of ‘home’, it’s all about the kitchen, the family, laughing and arguing,” says the chef, who hails from Southport, but now resides in Wimbledon (he recommends a deli there called Bayley And Sage, if you’re ever in the area, for the “best fresh fruit and produce”).
And now the kids are growing up, cooking together is something that’s happening more often.
“It can be hell at times, but it is mostly fun,” he says, eyes twinkling and a smile spreading across his face. “What annoys me about cooking with children – even though I do love it – is the mess. Jess always wants to cook cakes, Archie will get involved in cookery with his mum and he makes a mean salad sandwich. But Jake is all about fry-ups, and he hates cleaning up.”
Don’t we all? Though I can imagine this is one Michelin-starred chef who won’t stand for anyone not clearing up after themselves, even if they are his children.
Fancy some relaxed, homely family food created by one of the best in the business? Tuck into these…
Pumpkin soup with maple-toasted seeds
1 pumpkin, preferably with blue/grey skin, 2kg approx
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary
1tsp sea salt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the maple-toasted seeds:
60g pumpkin seeds
1tbsp maple syrup
1/2tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
1/4tsp sea salt
Peel and quarter the pumpkin, reserving the skin and seeds.
Cut the pumpkin flesh into rough 2cm chunks, and set aside.
Put the skin, seeds, trimmings, bay leaf and rosemary in a large saucepan. Cover with about 2.5 litres water, bring to the boil and simmer for one hour. Strain and reserve the stock.
While the stock is simmering, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
To make the seeds, mix together the pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, olive oil and salt. Scatter evenly on a baking tray and bake for eight to 10 minutes, until golden. Remove and allow to cool, then roughly chop.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, and add the pumpkin chunks and one teaspoon of salt. Cook for about five minutes, until the pumpkin starts to soften.
Pour in about half of the pumpkin stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is completely soft and starting to break down. Stir in the milk, remove the rosemary sprig and bay leaf.
Using a stick blender (or transfer to a food processor), blitz until completely smooth, adding more stock as required. Season to taste.
Serve the soup hot, scattered with the maple-toasted pumpkin seeds and drizzled with oil.
Braised cod with herb vinaigrette, toasted broccoli, sprouts and chestnuts
4tbsp olive oil
4 thick skin-on cod fillets
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 head of broccoli, broken into florets
12 Brussels sprouts, quartered
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g fresh or vacuum-packed chestnuts, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 bunch of tarragon, leaves picked and finely sliced
1/4 bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely sliced
2tbsp capers, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4tbsp white wine vinegar
150ml extra virgin olive oil
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
To make the vinaigrette, mix all the ingredients together and set aside.
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Season the cod well with salt and pepper and carefully place in the pan, skin-side down. Cook for a couple of minutes until the base of the cod is nicely browned, then turn over.
Pour in 200ml of stock and cover the pan loosely with foil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for a maximum of five minutes, until the cod is just cooked through.
Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan, over high heat until almost smoking. Add the broccoli and sprouts and fry until browned.
Pour in the remaining 50ml of stock and add the crushed garlic, then reduce the heat slightly. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are just tender, then stir in the chestnuts.
To serve, divide the vegetables between plates and sit the cod on top. Drizzle generously with the herbed vinaigrette and serve straight away.
Lemon fudge puddings
100g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
150g caster sugar, plus 2tbsp extra
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
Creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream, to serve
For the fudge:
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
200g condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
Lightly butter six ramekin dishes and sprinkle evenly with the two tablespoons of sugar.
To make the lemon fudge, combine the lemon zest and juice and condensed milk. Set aside.
For the puddings, put the eggs and 150g caster sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk on high speed until light and fluffy.
Stir the butter, lemon zest and juice into the eggs and sugar, then fold in the flour and baking powder.
Put a good spoonful of the pudding mixture into the bottom of the ramekins. Spoon the lemon fudge on top. Finish by spooning the remaining lemon pudding mix over the fudge.
Smooth over the surface with a palette knife.
Sit on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, until the puddings puff up and become golden.
Leave to rest for a minute or two and serve with a spoonful of creme fraiche or ice cream spooned over the top.
Marcus At Home by Marcus Wareing is available now.