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CHEF ALEX MACKAY COOKS MERCHANT GOURMET FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Gnocchi with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil Recipe

Merchant Gourmet and Chef Alex Mackay

Merchant GourmetMerchant Gourmet recently launched a brand new web site www.merchant-gourmet.com. As well as an online store to enable you to easily order Merchant Gourmet products a recipes section has been created, into which video guides have being incorporated from top chef Alex Mackay.

Merchant Gourmet was started by Mark Leatham in 1985. He spent his time looking for the cream of the crop, and talking about it to la crème de la crème.

Today, Merchant Gourmet now has over forty products that you will find on the shelves of major supermarkets. Mark is still looking for more, newer good stuff, and working with their suppliers. The rest of the team spend a lot of time cooking and tasting.

The range includes everything from Chestnuts to Porcini Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Balsamic Syrup. Merchant Gourmet wants people to use them all the time, rather than lose them in the back of the cupboard. The big idea is that a bit of something special can elevate your lunch or dinner. One ingredient makes all the difference, if you will.

For written version of recipe please scroll down page

Alex Mackay . . . the Cook, the Teacher, the Writer and the Father

Chef Alex MackayCooking is everlasting, ever changing, magical fun. I cook all the time, very often three times a day. I cook for work, I cook to relax, I grow things that I want to cook and I read about how best to cook them. And I really love to talk and write about it.

Nearly fifteen years ago Raymond Blanc called me in Bermuda to ask me to come back to Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons and run his Cookery School. That was the day I started to become less of a chef and more of a cook.

These days I'm learning to be a father as I write, appear on television, run Delia Smith's Cookery Workshops at Norwich City Football Club and spend as much time as I can with the wonderful Kids Cookery School. And as you can see I have also become the Merchant Gourmet Cook.

I write a monthly recipe feature for Sainsbury's Magazine. I won The Guild of Food Writers Cookery Journalist of the Year 2006 and was runner up in 2007 and 2008. My book "Cooking in Provence" won the Gourmand World Cookbook award for "Best Book on French Cuisine in English" and was in a short list of three for "Best First Book" at the Guild of Food Writers Awards.

I am a regular on Ready Steady Cook on BBC 2 and I have featured on This Morning and Too Many Cooks on ITV. I was a regular for five years on UKTV's Great Food Live and made three thirteen part series for Carlton Food Network.

My cookery workshops at Norwich City Football Club with Delia Smith are now going into their seventh year.

I started working in restaurants completely by chance after being asked to leave school in New Zealand at fifteen. I washed dishes for a year before starting an apprenticeship and then as soon as I finished I bought a one-way ticket to France. I spent nearly three years working in the kitchens of two starred Michelin restaurants in Burgundy, Tours and Courchevel. After this I went to work for my great friend and mentor Raymond Blanc. I was promoted to Sous Chef after six months. I left a year later to get a little rest in Bermuda where at the age of twenty-three, I was runner up in Bermuda's Chef of the Year Awards. It was then that RB called to ask me to the come back to Le Manoir as Director of L'École de Cuisine and Head of development for Blanc Restaurants Ltd in charge of all its publishing and consultancy activities.

This time I spent three years at Le Manoir working on Projects as varied as Raymond Blanc's books and food for Virgin airlines. I then opened my own school, Le Baou d'Infer, in Provence. It was soon placed in the world top ten by the Sunday Times and Conde Nast Traveler as well as being voted one of the Worlds Finest by House and Garden Travel. The cookery school is now finished after fulfilling its five-year plan and, apart from the first year, always being fully booked.

My projects these days are ever more varied, but food, and people that want to learn about it are always at the centre.

I live in Oxford with my wife Jess and sons Jake and James.

Delia Smith from her foreword to Alex Mackay's book Cooking in Provence:

"Alex Mackay is, first and foremost, a brilliant chef. Yet at the same time he is much more than that. He has a rare and special gift, which goes beyond simply creating beautiful dishes. That gift is the ability to teach, inspire and enthuse others who want to learn how to cook."

Raymond Blanc from the booklet for Alex Mackay's former Cookery School Le Baou d'Infer:

"I have watched Alex grow with great pride from a fine chef into a fine teacher and listened with pleasure to the many guests who have enjoyed his free style of teaching and learnt so much in their time with us. The sadness I feel as he leaves is overwhelmed by the joy of seeing a pupil become a master."

Information taken from Alex Mackay's own web site www.alexmackay.com

GNOCCHI WITH SUN DRIED TOMATOES AND BASIL RECIPE

The Sun Dried Tomatoes light up and also season the sauce and gnocchi, giving you intense little nuggets of flavour throughout. The mozzarella should just begin to melt and the basil freshens things up beautifully.

Ingredients

Half a pack Sun Dried Tomatoes (50g)
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
500g packet of fresh gnocchi
1 mozzarella
20 large leaves of basil
Salt, sugar and cayenne pepper

Method

  • Boil your kettle. Put the Sun Dried Tomatoes into a small bowl; pour the water over the top then leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Put the onion and garlic into a shallow pan. Add the oil, cover and then soften over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tin of tomatoes and 100ml of water, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While the sauce simmers, chop the Sun Dried Tomatoes into bits the size of big raisins. Add them to the sauce then simmer for the last 5 minutes or so.
  • Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil.
  • Slice the basil and chop the mozzarella into small (1.5cm) cubes.
  • Boil the gnocchi for 3 minutes, strain and shake well and then add to the sauce.
  • Stir in the mozzarella followed by the basil. Remove from the heat, season to taste with salt (don't need much), sugar (to bring out the tomato's flavour) and cayenne pepper. Serve

Prep Ahead:

If you are only cooking for two, separate half of the gnocchi and sauce before you add the mozzarella and basil. You can then keep it in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze for another time.

Kids Corner:

At my house we only really need three portions, but because the gnocchi comes in bags of 500g, I always make a whole recipe and freeze one portion for an emergency supper. It is an excellent meal for kids that you can adapt to almost endlessly; I often add carrots, peppers or sweet potatoes to the sauce at the start or sliced baby spinach or rocket near the end. The chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes are a great hit with my kids, in the same way that dried fruit is.

This dish can be pureed for the tiny and toothless, but as with all gnocchi or pasta, either chop it by hand or puree it into tiny chunks with the pulse button, if you leave the motor running the puree will become very gluey.

Serves 4

Merchant Gourmet

www.merchant-gourmet.com

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