Marcus Wareing is one of the top chefs working in
That custard tart was a triumph. A clean, cool, trembling tribute to British food at its very best. Sad then to read in an interview with Marcus ‘I don’t want to be remembered for a custard tart when I’m gone’!
The tart though, was the starting point for this book – How to cook the perfect… It seems that after the television programme Marcus met a couple of ladies who had run into some trouble recreating his dish.
So Marcus and his co-writer, Jeni Wright, have come up with a book that lets us into the secrets of perfection. And the publishers, Dorling Kindersley, have come up with a video of how to make the famous custard tart. If you watch it you may be alarmed to see that he seems to plonk the baking beans into the tart shell still inside their plastic bag. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this recently and any comments on putting plastic in the oven will be gratefully received.
Another clever touch is to fill the baked shell with the uncooked custard after you put the shell in the oven, so you don’t spill it all over the place trying to manoeuvre it across the kitchen. And, in a change to the original recipe, the book suggests that you also grate the nutmeg over the tart once it is inside the oven, and not after you take it out. Have a look at Marcus’s oven in the video – it’s the size of a wardrobe. Have a look at yours. Get out the BandAids now.
You see, if you tell me you have the perfect method I am going to be picky.
I was all set to cook the famous tart until I read that it was far from his idea of a legacy. Well, if it’s not good enough for him… So I looked carefully through the book to see what else I could make to tempt you, my gorgeous public. How about roast potatoes? Mashed potatoes? Scrambled eggs? Pork chops? Don’t think so somehow. But wouldn’t pork chops ‘Michelin’ be spectacular? Well, yes and no, because the recipe is Marcus’s Mum’s. In fact most of the book is a hymn to family cooking, straightforward Sunday lunch stuff and salads and puddings. There’s a very good piece on how to make a chocolate fondant, all gooey inside – but do we really need to be told how to make a green salad?
In the end I made the nice fish pie, and very good it was too. But I have to confess that for two people I did not start off by making a couple of litres of good fish stock ‘from sole, plaice, halibut or turbot’. That’s the problem – a fish pie is supper, it’s not a three act drama. Nevertheless, it was good to be reminded to drain the vegetables and fish thoroughly so they don’t make the sauce watery. Elsewhere the tips are good too – scoring the skin of sea bass, drying out scallops overnight in the fridge and not overcooking a salmon fillet – and they are indeed the things that make the difference between a dish cooked well and a dish cooked averagely.
So who exactly is this book aimed at? I’m a bit puzzled actually. Its lovely sugar bag blue cover (well done DK design) is a delight to handle, and it brings back memories of Lipton’s shops and marble topped counters, flour bins, pats of butter and racks of biscuit boxes. I know that Gordon Ramsay is keen, quite rightly, to get women cooking again and restore the Sunday lunch, so maybe that’s who this is for, the roast chicken and apple crumble brigade. As a basic cook book it’s very good. But the dish that engendered this book was for the Queen of England! You’ve got all these Michelin stars, Marcus! Some of us are pretty good at roast chicken and apple crumble!
I finally figured it out. I know who this book is for. It should be on the wedding present list of every young thing that’s getting married this year. The Shires will be ringing with the sound of nutmegs being grated and potatoes being mousselined. An excellent idea – I have several people in mind for it!
How to cook the perfect... by Marcus Wareing with Jeni Wright
Published by Dorling Kindersley www.dk.com
Marcus Wareing returns to our screens this week in Great British Menu on BBC2 to defend the regional title for the North of England that he won last year.
The video of the custard tart is at http://youtube.com/watch?v=sI82eJFnuzs