PRUE LEITH: You may love it or hate it, but it’s every chef’s guilty secret

So Nigella, with her recipe for Marmite spaghetti, has lifted the lid on many a good cook’s secret ingredient: Marmite as a taste booster.

The TV chef, 62, shared the unusual combination as her recipe of the day online, pairing the salty spread with spaghetti, butter and cheese, causing a reaction that ranged from bafflement to delight.

I’m slightly puzzled by the doubters. Why wouldn’t you use the concentrated flavour of yeast extract to give density to a pasta sauce or enliven a dull soup?

Of course, most Marmite gets eaten on toast. My husband likes far too much on his, and he mixes it with the butter so it’s a beige paste. I hate that. I have to spread the butter on first and then lightly streak it with Marmite.

For me, the best way to have it on toast is with an unhealthy amount of cream cheese (I use full-fat Philadelphia) and a light swirl of Marmite on top. But mostly I use Marmite as a sure-fire method of adding flavour to disappointing cooking.

So Nigella, with her recipe for Marmite spaghetti, has lifted the lid on many a good cook’s secret ingredient: Marmite as a taste booster

And yes, I make my fair share of dull chicken stews or unexciting Bolognaises. But by the time I serve them up, I’ll have injected a blast of flavour, quite likely from Marmite.

Marmite works with almost anything. It’s particularly good with carbs, so it’s great on spaghetti, in macaroni cheese, on pizza, in fried potato cakes.

It makes a wonderful savoury bread pudding, too: like bread and butter pudding with the bread spread with butter and Marmite, stacked in a dish with fried onions, covered in a cheesy custard, and baked. Yum.

Marmite works with almost anything. It’s particularly good with carbs, so it’s great on spaghetti, in macaroni cheese, on pizza, in fried potato cakes

Marmite works with almost anything. It’s particularly good with carbs, so it’s great on spaghetti, in macaroni cheese, on pizza, in fried potato cakes

My love affair with Marmite started at boarding school. When other girls brought sweets and crisps in their tuck-boxes, I brought peanut butter, marmalade and Marmite.

When I was seven, and homesick, I walked all round the school grounds digging Marmite out of the jar with my finger. I ate the whole jar and threw up in the hydrangeas.

I also remember spreading Marmite on a split banana for a midnight feast. Not sure I’d recommend that now.

In my latest cookbook, The Vegetarian Kitchen, written with my niece Peta, we have a cheese and Marmite soufflé. It’s just a classic cheddar and Parmesan soufflé with a dollop of Marmite in the egg mix. It’s sensational, I promise. When I had my party catering company, we served Philadelphia cream cheese and Marmite, in small cold profiteroles as a drinks time snack. Or we’d stuff them with a cream sauce, Marmite and mushrooms and serve them hot.

So, Nigella’s cooking with Marmite is not new. And indeed, if you look on the internet, you will find half a dozen chefs were there before her.

But good for Nigella for spilling the beans.

Love it or hate it? Marmite recipes

Nigella Lawson

Marmite spaghetti

The mad but mouthwatering dish that had tongues wagging this week. Nigella’s recipe, available on her website and first unveiled in her book Kitchen back in 2008, is simple. Fifty grams of unsalted butter melted with a teaspoon of Marmite, mixed with a teaspoon of pasta water and then poured over enough spaghetti to feed four — not forgetting a generous grating of Parmesan.

‘I haven’t found a child who doesn’t like it,’ says Nigella.

Gordon Ramsay is often called a Marmite TV chef — you either love him and his aggressive persona, or you hate him — but he knows what he likes, and Marmite is one of those things

Gordon Ramsay is often called a Marmite TV chef — you either love him and his aggressive persona, or you hate him — but he knows what he likes, and Marmite is one of those things

Gordon Ramsay

Marmite sausage rolls

Gordon Ramsay is often called a Marmite TV chef — you either love him and his aggressive persona, or you hate him — but he knows what he likes, and Marmite is one of those things.

His recipe for Marmite sausage rolls, featured on gordon ramsayrestaurants.com, uses 350g sausage meat, 3 tbsp wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper, a sheet of puff pastry, egg, 1 tsp of nigella seeds and 1 tbsp of Marmite. The Marmite is mixed with the egg and used to create a glaze for the pastry.

‘Don’t be put off by the Marmite glaze,’ says Gordon. ‘It adds a subtle savoury flavour.’

Heston Blumenthal

Pot consumed

He’s confessed that Marmite is a secret ingredient in everything from chilli con carne to veggie burgers, and the visionary chef included a recipe for Marmite consommé in his Heston Blumenthal At Home cookbook.

Brown butter, onion, leek, carrot, red wine, sherry vinegar and Marmite combine to elevate the richness of this classic clear broth.

The Great British Bake Off winner’s recipe for mac and cheese surprised some when she featured it on her Fast Flavours TV show late last year

The Great British Bake Off winner’s recipe for mac and cheese surprised some when she featured it on her Fast Flavours TV show late last year

Nadiya Hussain

Marmite macaroni cheese

The Great British Bake Off winner’s recipe for mac and cheese surprised some when she featured it on her Fast Flavours TV show late last year.

‘Trust me, it’s the best mac and cheese you’ll ever try,’ she promised. The premise is simple: take your usual macaroni cheese recipe and stir in a hearty dollop of Marmite to the cheese sauce.

Jamie Oliver

Marmite mushrooms

The Naked Chef is no stranger to the famous yeast extract, mixing it in with his beef and barley soup, but most appetisingly he makes Marmite mushrooms to serve with scrambled eggs and toast.

‘Yep, you’ll love it or you’ll hate it,’ says Jamie. ‘I love it.’

Featured in his Everyday Super Food book, Jamie adds one heaped teaspoon of Marmite to a frying pan of 150g buttery mushrooms, then seasons with black pepper and serves topped with parsley.

The Naked Chef is no stranger to the famous yeast extract, mixing it in with his beef and barley soup, but most appetisingly he makes Marmite mushrooms to serve with scrambled eggs and toast

The Naked Chef is no stranger to the famous yeast extract, mixing it in with his beef and barley soup, but most appetisingly he makes Marmite mushrooms to serve with scrambled eggs and toast

Tom Kerridge

Marmite mash

More and more chefs are making their own Marmite butter, but only Tom is mixing his with potato to make a deliciously rich mash. Beat together 100g unsalted butter and 2 tsp Marmite with a generous pinch of sea salt, then use this in place of regular butter when mashing your potatoes.

More and more chefs are making their own Marmite butter, but only Tom is mixing his with potato to make a deliciously rich mash

More and more chefs are making their own Marmite butter, but only Tom is mixing his with potato to make a deliciously rich mash

The Hairy Bikers

Marmite and cheese scones

Si King and Dave Myers have never been wedded to culinary tradition, and this delicious update on the cheese scone is bold but brilliant.

Their recipe — 50ml whole milk, 1 tbsp Marmite, 300g self-raising flour, 1tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, 85g unsalted butter, 150g cheddar, 1 tsp mustard powder and 1 tbsp caster sugar — involves whisking the Marmite into the milk as you warm it at the start.

Si King and Dave Myers have never been wedded to culinary tradition, and this delicious update on the cheese scone is bold but brilliant

Si King and Dave Myers have never been wedded to culinary tradition, and this delicious update on the cheese scone is bold but brilliant

Monica Galetti

Marmite salt

Masterchef judge Monica is known for the Marmite salted popcorn she serves at her London restaurant, Mere. To make a similar salt (which she also uses to season other savoury dishes), you first dehydrate the Marmite in the oven, then combine with sea salt flakes (ideally smoked).

Simon Rimmer

Marmite ice cream sandwich

The TV chef served up a peanut butter and Marmite ice cream sandwich on a recent episode of C4’s Sunday Brunch. He whizzed together 397g condensed milk, 600ml whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla paste, 125g crunchy peanut butter, 2 tbsp warm water and 1 tbsp Marmite then sandwiched the ice cream between two coconutty, oaty cookies.

Gary Rhodes

Coffee ice Cream with Marmite syrup

In 2006, the late, great Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes created an entire Marmite menu at his London restaurant, Rhodes Twenty Four. The piece de resistance was coffee ice cream topped with chocolate Marmite sauce or a Marmite syrup.

To recreate the salty-sweet combination for yourself, try mixing a dash of the yeast extract into your usual syrup recipe.

Mad about Marmite? Dig in!

Marmite Cheddar Cheese

£1.75, waitrose.com

Ilchester Cheddar married with Marmite, for those who fancy a cheese and Marmite sarnie without the spreading. Reviews are generally positive — those who do complain say there’s not enough Marmite flavour to sate them.

M&S Marmite Dinky Cheese Pinwheels

Eight for £3.20, ocado.com

Marks & Spencer has gone Marmite mad with a range that includes cheese and Marmite muffins.

Musk’s Pork Sausages with Marmite

384g for £3.50, musks.com

‘The familiar, creamy flavour of Marmite that has been expertly blended throughout the sausage to provide a length of flavour that extends well beyond the last swallow,’ according to the makers. So popular, orders have been suspended!

M&S Cream Cheese Marmite

140g for £3.20, ocado.com

Ten per cent pure Marmite, nine-tenths cream cheese. However, fans say they want more Marmite.

Hummus Pot

200g for £1.50, tesco.com

Mixed reviews on this one, even from Marmite devotees, one of whom accuses it of being even saltier than Marmite alone.

Marmite Peanut Butter

225g for £2.50, sainsburys.co.uk

Crunchy or smooth, the uber-salty treat has 4/5 stars from customers.

Walkers Marmite Crisps

Multipack of 6, £1.95, ocado.com

Warnings abound of a strong aftertaste, but most Marmite lovers will be used to that.

Joe & Seph’s Marmite popcorn

75g for £4, joeandsephs.co.uk

Marmite and sweet caramel, with the crunch of popped corn.

Camden Marmite Ale

330ml for £1.85, waitrose.com

There’s beer yeast in Marmite, and there’s Marmite in this limited edition beer — launched last autumn, now sold out and, fans hope, soon to be re-released.

Marmite Breakfast Biscuits

£2.80 for a pack, ocado.com

Too busy to make toast in the morning? These savoury biscuits could save the day. ‘I thought they’d be dry as a bone but they had a great texture and taste,’ said one happy customer.

Libby Galvin




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