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CHEF ALEX MACKAY COOKS MERCHANT GOURMET FOOD & COOKING ARTICLE

Roast Chestnut and Butternut Squash Pasta with SunBlush® Tomatoes 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

ROAST CHESTNUT AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH PASTA WITH SUNBLUSH® TOMATOES RECIPE

The squash and Chestnuts make this macaroni rich, gently sweet and irresistible. It is also good and hearty, perfect for the evenings as they get colder. A little ricotta, spooned over the top, is a nice addition. The butternut squash can be replaced with sweet potato or pumpkin.

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (approximately 1kg), peeled, de-seeded and chopped into 3cm cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
200g packet of Merchant Gourmet Whole Chestnuts
16 SunBlush® Tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
800ml-1 litre hot water
330g macaroni
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
4 sprigs of rosemary, spikes picked from their stalks and chopped
Salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 240°C / Fan 220°C / Gas 9
  • Peel the squash, the easiest way to do this is with a Y shaped vegetable peeler. Toss the squash with the oil, season and then roast for 30 minutes. You need to remember to add the Chestnuts and SunBlush® Tomatoes after 25 minutes
  • Boil your kettle. Pop the packet of Chestnuts into a large bowl, pour the water over the top and leave them for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove them from the water, open their plastic wrapper then separate the Chestnuts into a bowl
  • In the meantime, put the sliced onion and garlic into a medium saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water. Cover the pan then put it onto a medium heat and sweat for 5 minutes until the onions have softened
  • Add the macaroni to the saucepan and then stir in the tomato puree
  • Pour in 2/3 of the hot water; bring to the boil, turn down the heat and then simmer for 15 minutes. Add more water if the pasta begins to dry out, it should always be slightly soupy. Turn off the heat, cover and then leave to sit for 2 minutes
  • Remove the squash, Chestnut and SunBlush® mixture from the oven then sprinkle over the chopped rosemary
  • Season to taste, stir half of this mixture into the macaroni, spoon into plates then scatter the remaining squash, Chestnuts and SunBlush® Tomatoes over the top

Kids Corner:

At my house we only really need 3 portions, but there is no point in just using a bit of the butternut, so I make 4 portions and freeze one. This is an ideal dish for kids as the butternut squash, Chestnuts and SunBlush® Tomatoes are all slightly sweet. The best pasta to make it with for younger children is Orzo. I’d also highly recommend the Chestnuts with vegetables as a puree; so far I have used celeriac, potato, sweet potato, parsnip, carrot and onion. The combinations are wonderful for kids, also for grown ups as side dishes or with stock added for soup.

Serves: 4

Merchant Gourmet

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