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CHEF ALEX MACKAY COOKS MERCHANT GOURMET FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Pitta Breads with Red and White Quinoa and Tuna 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

PITTA BREADS WITH RED AND WHITE QUINOA AND TUNA RECIPE

This tasty and quick supper sings out that spring has sprung. The quinoa is rich, delicious and satisfying amongst the crisp and colourful vegetables. You can vary the vegetables according to whatever is freshest and best. Or, if you haven’t had time to shop, you can make a lovely variation from your fridge and freezer using larger quantities of the SunBlush? and frozen peas.

Ingredients

250g pack of ready to eat Red & White Quinoa
185g tin of tuna in spring water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 black olives (only if you like them)
2 very ripe tomatoes
Half a cucumber
20 leaves of basil, mint or parsley
4 pitta bread

Method

  • Heat the Quinoa in the microwave, following the timings on pack.
  • Open the pack then tip it into a large bowl.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper then leave to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  • Remove the little black cores from the tomatoes and then chop them into 1 cm chunks.
  • Cut the cucumber in half lengthways then scoop out and discard the seeds, chop into chunks.
  • Roughly chop the olives then slice the basil.
  • Stir the tuna and its juice into the quinoa followed by the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste.
  • Warm the pitta bread and serve alongside. You could also serve this without the pitta as a lovely salad or wrap it up in tortillas to take to work.

Kids Corner:

Both of my kids love this salad. You can use the quinoa as a base for all sorts of salads for kids; it is a good starting point for getting them used to new flavours; try grated carrot, raisins, lemon and mint, a favourite from my wife’s student days is tuna and sweetcorn. For kids with just a few teeth leave out or peel the cucumber. Also leave out the cucumber if you want to puree this for the tiny and toothless.

When children are trying something new, it is often the texture rather than taste they trouble with, so start them with very small pieces, this is how I discovered that my eldest liked spinach, the leaves were too much whole but very thinly sliced he ate them all up.

We used the cooked Quinoa on it’s own to mix with purees when we were getting both boys onto more textured solids. A good idea is to freeze a packet of Quinoa in ice cube trays, and then you have pre-portioned amounts to add to each meal with no waste.

Serves: 2 - 4 as a light meal

Merchant Gourmet

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