‘Being vegan for nine months was incredible, I lost five stones’

‘Being vegan for nine months was incredible, I lost five stones’

Marco Pierre White doesn’t seem like the obvious choice to headline a vegetarian cooking course. He owns a chain of steakhouses and is famous for posing with a butcher knife on the cover of his cookbook. White heatBack in the days when he made Gordon Ramsay cry, when vegetarianism was a shady subculture.

But White’s style of presentation, after years of spearheading Hell’s kitchen and other cooking shows around the world, seems tempered to Gentiles by his new online course for BBC Maestro, with 24 video lessons that bring haute cuisine culinary skills to vegetarian food for five hours.

There are no instant noodles or cult ingredients here, though you do ask for some kitchen equipment, like sous vide machines (you can improvise though) and deep fryers.

Chatting with I A few days after her 60th birthday, White reveals how she once gave veganism a chance. Inspired by his daughter and her friends who rarely eat animal products, he gave it a try a decade ago.

“It was an amazing nine months,” he recalls, one that was “more about the trip” than the food alone.

“The first three weeks, it didn’t affect me in the least. Then in the six weeks after that, I became quite introverted, quite weak. Then I returned to normal, I slept much better, my sense of smell was greater and I lost a huge amount of weight, about four or five kilos, and I had much more energy ”.

Mushroom risotto by Marco Pierre White (Photo: BBC Maestro / Deryck van Steenderen)

January is certainly a time of travel (albeit more metaphorical than actual travel for most of us at the moment). But White’s course is far from the denial or abstention embedded in the beginning of a new year, with its suggestions for resolutions and health kicks, give up and cut back. Their dishes are traditional, generous and honest.

I was expecting something a little newer: complicated techniques that work flavourful miracles but require weeks of training.

Instead, there’s mushroom risotto, truffled cauliflower cheese, and arancini. Endive tart tatin, stuffed cabbage, braised celery with walnuts and madeira and five types of potatoes.

Yes, there are cheffy techniques; The aforementioned sous vide is my least favorite method of cooking due to the vile porridge it transforms the meat into, but I’m willing to give the truffle cheesy white celery another shot.

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“Dishes that I may once have foolishly considered garnishing a plate have now become healthy, spectacular and delicious centerpieces,” he explains in the course.

“In the world of gastronomy, chefs love to ‘deconstruct’: breaking down the components of the dish to make little knickknacks of this and that. I really don’t like this; deconstruction makes no sense. The ingredients, the creations of mother nature, become unrecognizable. ”

Other BBC Maestro food and drink courses

Pierre Koffmann: Classic French Bistro Cuisine

Richard Bertinet: Bakery

Vineet Bhatia: Modern Indian Cuisine

Coming Soon – Jancis Robinson: An Understanding of Wine

Coming Soon – Heston Blumenthal: Ingenious Cooking at Home

The top names turning away from animal products have made headlines in recent months. Claridges said goodbye to chef Daniel Humm in late 2021 because he wanted the Davies and Brook restaurant at the Mayfair hotel to be vegan.

His New York restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, stopped serving fish or meat last summer but still uses some animal products. Alexis Gauthier, another Michelin chef in London, turned his Gauthier Soho restaurant fully vegan last year, but only after years of offering an all-plant menu alongside meat and fish menus.

“It’s a business,” White says of Claridges. “It would be crazy to go purely vegan.” He notes that Alain Passard, who has three Michelin stars at L’Arpège in Paris, removed animal products from his menu 20 years ago, but has since reintroduced them.

Why so much talk about stars? White was the first British chef, and the youngest at the time, to receive three Michelin stars at 31 in 1994.

He is a classically trained chef who learned from big names like Albert and Michel Roux and Pierre Koffman. A true legend, or a teacher, as the BBC would say.

Tired of the pressure and pretense of cooking at this level, he retired from the kitchen into his own kitchen in the late 20th century – hence the steakhouses and other upscale but informal restaurants that bear his name, about 40 in all.

What do you think of Michelin today? “They make very good tires,” he says deadpan. “You are judged by people who are less knowledgeable than you. Sometimes I go to Michelin restaurants and I don’t understand what I eat.

“Technical ability can be respected and they are very successful in turning a canapé party into a dinner party. But I don’t want 12 or 15 servings of treats that tend to be lukewarm. I want hot food. ”

Still, White is no stranger to culinary evolution. Later this year it will put 3D-printed vegan “steaks” on its menus, selling the plant-based foods of the Israeli company Redefine Meat at prices similar to real cuts of beef.

“It’s the smartest product I’ve seen in my entire career,” he says, with much more energy than when he talks about tasting menus. “When I first tried it, I broke it in half to see the structure, and it has the texture of a veal cheek or brisket. I could make a boeuf bourguignon and you wouldn’t know it’s not meat.

“One of the only downsides for me personally as a vegan was that I never felt satisfied. An hour later I was hungry again. ”

But most of his time, he tells me, is spent away from lab-grown meat or the heat of a kitchen. He enjoys gardening and strolling with his stalkers, enjoying his country hotel and property The Rudloe Arms in Wiltshire, not far from Bath.

He has applied for nature reserve status, and seeing wildlife return to his land is something he is as proud of as any plate of food.

“The kingfisher just arrived for his breakfast,” he says. “I saw one for the first time in September, only when I was walking to the pond to feed the carp. Everything we do here is by nature. When you create something and see nature coming, it’s the best. ”

Prescription Barigoule Artichokes by Marco Pierre White

This braised artichoke dish is a Provencal classic (Photo: Deryck van Steenderen)

Ingredients for the barigoule

18 artichokes
2 medium carrots, cut crosswise
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs of thyme
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 generous glass of dry white wine
200ml of vegetable broth
Sea salt – season to your liking
15 g unsalted butter
15g basil leaves

Ingredients for tomato sauce

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 kg of cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 kg of chopped canned tomatoes

Tomato sauce method

This sauce can be made well in advance and stored in batches in the refrigerator or freezer.

Preheat the oven to 150 ° C / Fan 130 ° C / Gas brand 2.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the grated onion and garlic and cook until just soft. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and continue stirring. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they begin to break apart. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Let the tomatoes slowly release their liquid and then increase the temperature.

Taste, taste, taste. Watch the acidity of the tomatoes evaporate as their natural sweetness takes over. When you are satisfied with the sweetness of the sauce, add the canned tomatoes, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Cover with a baking paper cartridge. Then wrap the lid of the saucepan in aluminum foil and place the wrapped lid on top of the saucepan. In this way, what happens in the pan stays in the pan. Cook in the preheated oven for one hour.

Pass the sauce little by little through a conical strainer. Use the back of a ladle to push the liquid all the way in until what’s left in the strainer is almost dry, and as you go, discard the shells. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Method for the barigoule

Peel the artichokes, so you get the artichoke heart and stem. Remove the woody base from each heart so that you are left with the stem and the top half of the heart. Store the artichokes in cold water, with lemon, to avoid discoloration.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large fireproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the sliced ​​carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme and stir, stirring occasionally to avoid burning the pan. Watch the sizzle get quieter as the water content of the vegetables evaporates.

Add the artichoke hearts to the pan, pour in the wine and allow it to reduce to remove the acidity of the wine and bring out its natural sweetness. When you can no longer smell the acidity of the wine, it is time to pour in the vegetable broth and add a couple of pinches of salt.

Bring the broth back to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a cartridge made from parchment paper. Continue simmering for about 20 minutes. Check the artichokes by inserting the tip of a knife; there should be no resistance.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the tomato sauce (or passata, if using it) and add a drizzle of olive oil. Beat in the softened butter.

Make basil butter in a food processor by mixing the basil leaves with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and your butter. Add this to the artichoke skillet and swirl the pan so the butter melts and emulsifies.

Arrange some of the artichoke hearts around the edge of a platter. Pour the tomato sauce in the center. Spoon the remaining artichoke hearts over the tomato sauce. Pour in the carrots, onions and sauce from the casserole. Season with sea salt, sprinkle with herbs, and serve.

Marco Pierre White Delicious vegetarian cuisine course with BBC Teacher costs £ 80

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