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Marcus Wareing: let's get more cookery lessons in school for health and the environment

The i logo The i 08/11/2019
© Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

This weekend it became clear that a freezer defrost was required; every time anyone opened the door and pulled out a drawer there was an awful, conversation-stopping crunch.

Everything goes in our freezer. From the unfinished loaf of bread to the remnants of a delicious dinner that I am promised will be perfect for one.

The jury is still out on whether those items ever get used – and, in fact, whether labelling them in the first instance would make their consumption more likely.

Perhaps that’s a Christmas gift idea – a marker pen for the freezer?

a bunch of different types of fruit © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Fresh fruits and vegetables at the Fruit Logistica agricultural trade fair in Berlin. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Waste control is a huge focus of mine at work, the way to keep the costs down in the restaurant is to monitor waste – we use everything we order, we use seasonal produce, control stock and throw nothing away.

We have this down to a fine art at each of our three restaurants – Marcus, The Gilbert Scott and Tredwell’s – and we even have transparent rubbish bags so that senior chefs can see what is going in the bin and educate the team if required.

a group of people preparing food in a kitchen © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

This remains an area at home that I long to take charge of, retirement goals (sigh).

Living in a city it is too easy for us to decide on a dinner then go out and buy the ingredients.

Surely this is the wrong way round? It would be better to look in the fridge and freezer, see what we have and plan dinner accordingly.

12th January 1979: At the checkout desk in a supermarket in North London. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

I think this is a skill of the past and something we are in danger of losing. I remember my mother doing a massive weekly shop and planning the menus in advance for a family of six.

We are told that waste is a massive problem in this country with huge mountains of food being thrown away.

We have some fabulous charities who try to distribute the items that would otherwise go to waste, picking up from restaurants and supermarkets alike – but surely we could try to reduce the waste in our own kitchens by shopping better and ensuring that our children know how to cook.

a group of people sitting at a table © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Jane and I are parents to three children, our eldest has just turned 18 and will soon be venturing out on his own, whether to University or work.

What’s apparent is that if he wants to get on the property ladder or buy his first car, then he has to look for ways to save money. One of the simplest ways to do this is to manage his fridge and cook his own meals.

Dining out will have to be a luxury and not a necessity.

For this reason, Jane and I are determined to ensure that each of our children can cook before they leave home.

I am a chef so this may sound pretty obvious but why don’t we encourage every child to think like this?

Our children are lucky; they try a variety of ingredients, they eat in nice restaurants and we eat well at home – I realise this is a privilege.

Cooking from scratch can save money, it can be sociable, it can be incredibly satisfying and relaxing.

In addition, it can be far better for our health. I was one of the few boys at my school to study cooking, or food and nutrition. For me it led to a City and Guilds Qualification, a successful career in cooking and a lifelong love of food.

If you can cook and have the ability to teach and inspire, then you have an obligation to teach your children.

I accept that not everyone can do this so let’s get more cookery lessons in school.

Children at St German's school, Cardiff, making Christmas puddings for their party. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

I know there are already so many demands in the classroom – demands for more sport and better grades, but perhaps we should be looking at teaching one of life’s most important skills – cooking.

Everyone should have the knowledge to shop wisely and cook effectively.

Just this week I read a headline in a tabloid newspaper telling me that obesity causes a greater number of hospital visits. Of course there are many more issues at play here, but I really do believe that we have to teach our children to cook healthy meals.

There is no better time for us to do it as there remains a massive appetite for cooking shows.

The new season of MasterChef: The Professionals has just started on BBC2 and I get such positive comments about it. Many people already love to cook – but it shouldn’t be a luxury permitted by income or time.

It should be a necessity. My father in law recently sent me a book containing wartime recipes suited to ration book shopping. Probably far better for our health than ready meals and takeaways.

If we can help the next generation to learn to cook and learn to shop, we can start to have an impact on waste, health and of course the environment.

We never did manage to defrost the freezer. We managed to eat some of the contents though.

If you feel inspired, take a look at my seventh book, Marcus Everyday. The chapter “Waste not want not” is particularly pertinent. I hope you are reading, Mrs Wareing?

This week I have been...

Gardening... Sunday was a perfect day for me as I managed to get into the garden and finally plant the bag of spring bulbs that have been teasing me for the past month.  Last year we had one odd patch of daffodils in the middle of our lawn – we decided there and then we wanted more. We just need to wait and hope, firstly, that they actually grow and, secondly, that they look reasonably random.

I also spent an hour looking for a hole in our fence – our dog had managed to find one and was sat looking at us from the wrong side of the fence.

Watching... Dublin Murders (inset) on the BBC. I am rarely home in time to watch stuff on normal TV but the wonders of catch-up mean Jane and I can watch together when I get in. We are really enjoying the story, the acting and the locations – it’s very different to things we normally watch but it’s perfect in front of the fire. There are just two more to go (we are slightly behind) – what to watch next? I also enjoyed another Liverpool FC win last weekend.

I’ve been a fan since I was a child in Southport so am currently loving every match with my boys Jake and Archie. Whether it’s a full match or the highlights, I cannot get enough. Over the weekend I will be catching up on MasterChef: The Professionals. The new season just started on BBC2 but we filmed it a while ago so I like to remind myself of the competitors. Will I tell you the winner? No – I don’t even tell my wife.

Cooking... A delicious Welsh leg of lamb. I boned the leg which left me with about five larger pieces which I then marinated for 24 hours with oil, crushed garlic, ground cumin, paprika, salt and black pepper before slow roasting. It was served with roasted new potatoes, tomato salad, couscous salad, soured cream and chives and boiled green beans.

As an added treat, I broke open a burrata and seasoned with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper – absolutely delicious and so easy. Our daughter Jessie has become the baker in the house and made us a Victoria Sandwich to follow, served with homemade jam.

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