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CHEF ALEX MACKAY COOKS MERCHANT GOURMET FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Cheese, Onion, Porcini and Spinach Pie 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

CHEESE, ONION, PORCINI AND SPINACH PIE RECIPE

Porcini mushrooms are one of my favourite treats; I eat them and their delicious stock in sauces and sautés, in soup, on toast, in omelettes and onwards. One of their greatest combinations is with caramelised onions and I've got it here in a pastry case. This tart is off the scale yummy, it is ideal for any meal (I polished mine off at midnight), on its own or with a crisp green salad on the side.

Ingredients

600g or slightly over (about 6) small firm onions
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
25g packet Dried Porcini Mushrooms
375g – 425g (this depends on brand and supermarket) packet of ready rolled puff pastry
180 - 200g bag of spinach
250g tub of cream cheese or mascarpone
Salt and sugar

You will need a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 inch) baking tray

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C / Fan 180°C / Gas 7 Top shelf.
  • Peel the onions, cut them in half then slice them thinly.
  • Put the sliced onions into a shallow pan that you have a tight fitting lid for, add the oil, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar.
  • Cover the pan, place over a medium heat and sweat the onions for about 10 minutes until soft and creamy.
  • While the onions sweat, put the dried Porcini into a small bowl, pour hot water over the top and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  • Drain the Porcini and save the stock for another recipe such as a risotto, pasta sauce or soup.
  • Slice the Porcini thinly and set aside.
  • Take the lid off the onions, turn up the heat and stand over them, stirring frequently, for 8 - 10 minutes until they are a light caramel colour.
  • Stir in the sliced Porcini and then add the spinach, stir for 30 seconds, just enough for the spinach to begin to wilt.
  • Remove from the heat then stir in half of the cream cheese.
  • Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Line your baking tray with lightly oiled greaseproof paper. Lay the pastry over the top and then turn the excess pastry around the outside inward to make a small lip.
  • Spread the Porcini mixture over the top of the pastry inside the lip at the edge.
  • Dot the remaining cream cheese over the top and then for bake for 25 - 30 minutes in the pre-heated oven until crisp and golden.

Prep Ahead:

The tart can be cooked in advance, left to cool and then reheated in 200°C / Gas 6 for 3 - 4 minutes. I often double the onion mixture, up to the point of adding the spinach and cream cheese and then freeze half for another tart or to serve with beef or even as a base for gravy with sausages.

Kids Corner:

This was a hit; the only thing I would say for the younger ones is to chop the onions, Porcini and spinach into smaller pieces. The Porcini, onion, cheese and spinach mixture makes a great puree to freeze for the tiny and toothless too. Just mix with a little mashed potato or Polenta to serve.

Serves: 4

Merchant Gourmet

www.merchant-gourmet.com

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