Marco Pierre White’s Christmas Classics… try the celebrity chef’s festive favourites 

Continuing our mouth-watering series, Marco Pierre White shares his ultimate festive classics.

There’s a hearty venison and beetroot roast lunch, smoked haddock with buttery potatoes, a delicious roast duck, a comforting rice pudding — and a Champagne cocktail named after his uncle to whet the appetite…

Continuing our mouth-watering series, Marco Pierre White shares his ultimate festive classics


This is a perfect combination, with brandy-flamed currants, spicy black pepper and sweet beetroot.



Serves 6

  • 24 small beetroots
  • 85 g (3 oz) currants
  • 4 tsp black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 3 pieces of venison haunch, French trimmed, each about 300 g (10½ oz)
  • 3 tbsp clarified butter (or ghee, from supermarkets) or olive oil
  • 500 ml (18 fl oz) My Best-Ever Gravy (see recipe in Saturday’s pullout or online) 
  • 1 dsp redcurrant jelly
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) double cream (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A knob of butter
  • A splash of brandy

Preheat oven to 180c/160c/gas 4. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the beetroots and cook for about 30 minutes, until tender (check by inserting a knife into the largest one).

Drain, reserving the cooking liquor, and peel. Meanwhile, place the currants in a pan and just cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Refresh under cold water and pat dry.

Mix the ground peppercorns and cornflour and pat over the venison. Heat the butter or oil in a roasting tin. Add the venison and caramelise all over. Place in the oven for ten minutes, until you see the meat start to release its juices or, if you have a meat probe, it hits 55c.

Rest for five minutes, or until the probe hits 58c. Add the beetroots to the tin. In a pan, bring the gravy to a simmer and pour in the beetroot liquor, jelly and cream, if using. Taste and season. Pour into the tin.

Throw a knob of butter into a pan over a high heat and when it’s sizzling add the currants. When they blow up like balloons, deglaze with a splash of brandy and sprinkle over the meat.


Cauliflower cheese often has a gloopy sauce. You can avoid this by sprinkling the cheese into the dish rather than adding it to the sauce.



Serves 4

  • Salt
  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 200 g (7 oz) Parmesan or Cheddar cheese – or your favourite cheese

For the béchamel sauce 

  • 50 g (1¾ oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing 
  • 60 g (2¼ oz) plain flour l 500 ml (18 fl oz) milk
  • 50 ml cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, season the water with salt and add the cauliflower florets.

Cook the cauliflower florets until they are tender, but have a slight resistance when you test them by inserting a small knife.

Drain and set aside until the florets stop steaming. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat.

Add the flour and stir for 4-5 minutes. Pour in the milk and cream, if using, and cook for 10-15 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring with a whisk.

Add the cauliflower florets to the sauce, and mix so they are submerged or well coated in sauce. Butter a suitably sized ovenproof dish. Sprinkle a layer of cheese across the base of the dish. 

Lay half the béchamel-coated florets in the dish and sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Add the rest of the cauliflower, then the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until browned to your liking.


I love duck – it cooks quickly and any leftovers can be used to make a delicious salad.



Serves 4

  • 1 duck, about 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz)
  • 3 knobs of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon, finely sliced into thin lardons 
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks 
  • Sea salt
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) peas

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/ gas 4.

Place the duck in a roasting tin, baste with a knob of butter and brown on the stove for ten minutes, turning so it is browned all over.

Roast in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the juices run clear. Cover loosely with kitchen foil and rest for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan or heavy-based frying pan, melt the remaining two knobs of butter and sauté the bacon.

Transfer it to a plate, return the pan to the heat and sauté the carrot matchsticks with a pinch of sea salt until slightly golden. Remember to taste and test as you go, and add a little water to the pan if you want to soften the carrot matchsticks to your liking.

Cook the peas in a saucepan of boiling, salted water until tender. Drain the peas and toss them with the bacon and carrot matchsticks.

Arrange the bacon, carrots and peas on a serving dish, and place the duck on top. Serve, seasoning the duck slices with sea salt as you carve.


This is fun to make and fills the home with a wonderfully comforting aroma.

The pile of sliced onions might seem like a lot, but they’ll melt down and reduce as they cook.



Serves 4

  • 8 medium onions, about 800 g (1 lb 12 oz) total weight, finely sliced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100 g (3½ oz) butter
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 600 ml (1 pt) ale 
  • 1.5 ltr (2¾ pt) chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large croutons
  • 200 g (7 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated

Place the onions, garlic, butter and thyme in a large saucepan over a low heat. Put the lid on and slowly cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them burning. Pour in the ale, and continue to cook until the ale has reduced in volume by half.

Add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes. Taste and season accordingly. Preheat the grill to high — if the grill is too low the cheese will dry out, which you certainly don’t want. Divide the soup between four bowls, top with the croutons and sprinkle with the grated Gruyère. Grill until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately.


Many call it crème brûlée. I’m one of those who happen to believe this silky dessert was created at Trinity College, Cambridge.

There, before serving, they crack the caramel top and toss whole raspberries on top, creating a delicious texture and taste.



Serves 8

  • 900 ml (1½ pt) double cream
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) whole milk
  • 170 g (6 oz) caster sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 3 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 400 g-500 g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 120c/fan 100c/gas ½.

In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, 50 g (1¾ oz) of the sugar, and the split vanilla pods. Slowly bring to the boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 120 g (4¼ oz) sugar.

When the cream and milk mixture reaches the boil, remove from the heat, take out the vanilla pods and pour it over the egg and sugar, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling.

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods and stir into the mixture in the bowl. Pour into a 25 cm x 15 cm ovenproof dish or eight individual ramekins arranged on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.

It should have a slight wobble when it’s done. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least two hours.

When you are ready to serve, preheat the grill to high. Place the large dish or ramekins on a baking tray, and sprinkle the top with caster sugar.

Grill until the sugar is brown. (You can use a blow torch on the topping instead: brown the sugar from the outside of the ramekin, working towards the centre.)

Leave the topping to cool and harden, and then sprinkle over another layer of caster sugar and repeat the browning process.

This will make it extra crunchy. Take the Cambridge Burnt Cream to the table, and then break the top and scatter with the fresh raspberries.


This is a lovely lunch of poached haddock on buttery boiled potatoes, served at the table from one big dish.

It’s a dish that requires the investment of thought — and some time and love.



Serves 4

For the potatoes

  • 12 Charlotte potatoes (700 g-800 g), peeled and halved lengthways
  • Sea salt
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2-3 large knobs of unsalted butter, or more if you like, at room temperature

For the haddock and poached eggs

  • 4 smoked haddock fillets
  • 1 ltr (1¾ pts) whole milk
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Chopped fresh herbs, to garnish

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.

Add salt, stir and taste to check it’s salty enough — don’t take it for granted that the water is salted. Stir in the lemon juice.

Place a lid on the pan to quickly bring the water to the boil, and then remove the lid for the remaining cooking time. Test the potatoes after 20 minutes by inserting the tip of a knife, and when they are very nearly done, remove from the heat.

Drain 90 per cent of the water, then add the butter — you can watch me do this on BBC Maestro.

Return the pan to the heat and shake it. Bring the water and butter mixture to the boil for a couple of minutes before removing the pan from the heat again. Cover the pan tightly with a double layer of clingfilm and leave for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Place the haddock in a deep-sided sauté pan or frying pan, cover with the milk and then top up with cold water so the fillets are submerged. Bring the milk and water mixture to a gentle simmer — don’t let it boil — and poach the haddock for 5 minutes, or until you can insert a skewer with no resistance.

If the liquid starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds. Remove the fish from the pan and discard the skin. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. Add the vinegar.

Crack the eggs into separate cups, then tilt the cups close to the water’s surface and let the eggs roll into the water. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes, until cooked to your liking, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to kitchen paper.

Remove the clingfilm and arrange the potatoes in a serving dish. Spoon over the butter from the saucepan, and season each potato individually with a few flakes of sea salt. Lay the haddock on top of the potatoes. Place a poached egg on top of each fillet, and garnish with chopped herbs.


Armagnac Prunes finish this pud to perfection.



Serves 6

  • 50 g (1¾ oz) unsalted butter
  • 200 g (7 oz) pudding rice
  • 200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
  • 800 ml (1½ pt) double cream
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) whole milk
  • 2 vanilla pods, halved lengthways

For the Armagnac Prunes

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) prunes (I like Agen prunes)
  • 170 g (6 oz) caster sugar
  • 500 ml (16 fl oz) Armagnac or Cognac

To make the prunes, put them in an airtight container. In a pan, bring the sugar and Armagnac to the boil, then pour over the prunes. Seal and keep in a cool place.

Preheat the oven to 150c/fan 130c/gas 2. Melt the butter in an ovenproof pan. Add the rice. Add the sugar; stir until dissolved. Add the cream, milk and vanilla pods. Slowly bring to a simmer. Remove the pods, scrape out the seeds and stir the seeds into the rice. Bake for one hour, or until the rice is softened to your liking. Serve in the pan, topped with a large spoonful of prunes, and extra prunes on the side.


As a kid, I would go with my father, a chef, to the silver-service restaurant in Debenhams in Leeds. It was quite a fancy place and my Uncle Roy was the restaurant’s manager.

He was one of those kind uncles, and he’d always give me a few coins whenever he saw me. He’d join us in the restaurant for a chat, and we’d sit at a table by the door, so that when guests left, he could give them his traditional farewell: ‘Good to have you in the house.’



It’s a phrase I’ve said thousands of times since then to guests when they leave my own restaurants after a good meal. It seems fitting to name this cocktail after my uncle, a wonderful man. See the Rice Pudding recipe above for how to make the Armagnac Prunes.

Makes 6

Place one Armagnac Prune in each of the six glasses. Add 1 tsp of the prune syrup to each glass and top up with Champagne.


The perfect gift for passionate chefs: Mail readers can enjoy Marco’s course, Delicious Food Cooked Simply, either for themselves or as a gift, with a special pre-Christmas 40% discount, offering access to the whole course and Marco’s complete chef’s notebook for just £48 instead of £80. To claim your discount, simply go to mailoffer – your discount will be applied automatically. Offer ends December 16. Terms apply, see

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