Professional everyday cooking with TV chef Marcus Wareing
Michelin star chef Marcus Wareing chats to Lauren Taylor about savvy food shopping, cooking for one and having fun in the kitchen
Many know Marcus Wareing best for his measured – often tough – critique on Masterchef: The Professionals, delivered with those unnervingly steely blue eyes and leaving experienced chefs wishing they'd never dared serve the acclaimed restaurateur a panna cotta without the correct amount of wobble.
The 49-year-old has spent five years on the BBC show with Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti. He's also just released his seventh book, runs three restaurants and, right now, he's fired up.
"I cannot believe the amount of plastic waste we throw away as a family because of supermarkets. It's insane. It drives me crazy. We have a massive, massive issue here and it really needs stopping and stamping out," he declares.
"Don't get me going on plastic!"
He finds kitchen food waste just as intolerable – and there's as little as possible of it in the Wareing household – an issue he's tackling in his new cookbook, Marcus Everyday.
"I hate waste. My father is a fruit and potato merchant, we never threw anything away. As a chef, you're taught to look at produce, to nurture it, to store it well, and you don't throw things away. That's been ingrained in me."
It's not always easy though, to be a savvy shopper and organised enough to use absolutely everything in the fridge before there's a tinge of green, as many of us know.
"We're not perfect," he concedes. "We still have to work at it."
His new recipes for less food waste include Tuscan-style panzanella, frittata with piquant fruit chutney and sticky banana pudding with rosemary. Even past-its-best milk doesn't need to be chucked; that's right, you can turn it into homemade ricotta (with a radicchio, orange and dill salad).
"It's not dangerous," Wareing assures. "It's simple and straight-forward."
He acknowledges that it's "easy for me to say because I'm a chef, and it's something I'm used to. But I want to reflect on the importance of what we purchase when we go out shopping.
"Don't shop on your way home from work, don't shop when you're hungry, because you buy more food than you need and you'll buy food to eat straight away. Look in your fridge before you go, write down what you've got. Preserve things, freeze things.
"If you just do a good shop once a week or once a fortnight, and you've bought things with a bit of thought, you'll always find something to eat."
The new book is made up of chapters that might surprise, one going against the recipe book grain for dishes for two, four or six plus people, and aimed squarely at those cooking only for themselves – like the croque monsieur with homemade bechamel, or butter-roasted cauliflower with capers and parsley.
Wareing is no stranger to cooking for one, particularly during the earlier years after long kitchen shifts working under Gordon Ramsay.
"I was either at work or came home and no one was there," he says.
"I restricted myself from going anywhere when I was in the height of my growth in the industry, so there were times when I was home alone, and I didn't want to eat rubbish and I certainly didn't want a takeaway.
"There's a lot of people out there that are like that and come home after work and there's no one there," he says, rather refreshingly.
It can be tempting not to make any effort just for yourself, especially during the week, he agrees – indeed, there's a section in the book on weekday suppers.
"That's the biggest problem. They think, 'Oh well, it's only me, I'll sit in front of the TV and have a convenience meal, or I'll call Deliveroo'.
"Even if you do it once or twice a week, you've got to look after yourself - do it for yourself."
Family man Wareing now splits his time between his main home in Wimbledon, south west London, and a country house in East Sussex with a kitchen garden, where his wife Jane and their three children – Jake (18), Archie (15), Jessie (12) – congregate at the weekends, mostly in the kitchen by the sounds of it.
"When you pick things you grow yourself, it's quite extraordinary, it's a level of freshness that no shop of supermarket can give you," he says.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his children sound pretty accomplished in the kitchen too.
"It's because I pull them into the kitchen, and my wife certainly does – she wants to make sure that when our kids leave home, they can cook."
Who's the head chef at home? "Of course Jane's the head chef!" he says with a laugh.
"No, we're a team, when I close the door I'm not a chef in a restaurant, there's no hierarchy when I cook, I just have fun."
:: Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing, photography by Susan Bell, is published by HarperCollins, priced £20. Available now.
:: HOW TO MAKE MARCUS WAREING'S CROQUE MONSIEUR
Ingredients (Serves one):
50g Gruyere cheese, grated
2 slices of sourdough
3-4 slices of prosciutto
For the bechamel:
1tsp thyme leaves
1tbsp plain flour
1/2tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp wholegrain mustard
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Start by making the bechamel. Put the milk and thyme into a small saucepan. Gently bring to a simmer over low heat. Melt the butter in another small saucepan then add the flour, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about one minute to get rid of the floury taste, but avoid letting it brown. Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk and stir quickly to combine. Add the remaining milk and cook for a further five minutes over low heat, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat, add the mustards and cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
3. Place the grated Gruyere on one slice of the sourdough then top with the prosciutto. Finish with the bechamel then top with the other slice of sourdough. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the butter then carefully add the sandwich and toast it for three to five minutes. Gently turn the sandwich over and brown the other side for another three to five minutes.
4. Transfer to a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray and bake in the oven for four to five minutes, until the cheese has melted.
:: HOW TO MAKE MARCUS WAREING'S PANZANELLA
Ingredients (Serves 4):
300g fresh or stale bread, cut into thick slices
6 medium overripe tomatoes
100ml tomato juice from a carton
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
4tbsp balsamic vinegar
100ml olive oil
1tsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp capers in brine, plus 1tsp caper brine
1 red onion, thinly sliced
50g pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, leaves roughly chopped
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. If you're using fresh bread, preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 4, line a baking tray with baking parchment and lay out the bread slices in one layer. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
2. While the bread is baking, cut the tomatoes into small wedges. Toss them in salt then place them in a colander set over a bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes, reserving the juice.
3. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl.
4. Add the tomato juice, the garlic, two tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar and 50ml of the olive oil to the fresh tomato juice in the bowl. Mix together and season well with salt and pepper.
5. Cut the bread into 2cm dice and place in a shallow dish large enough to fit the bread in a single layer. Pour the tomato juice mix over the top and leave to sit for 20 minutes.
6. Mix the remaining balsamic vinegar and olive oil together. Add the mustard and caper brine and season with salt and pepper.
7. Add the soaked bread, red onion, capers, olives and herbs to the tomatoes and gently mix together with the dressing. Serve immediately.