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Creamy Chicken and Black Beluga Lentil Curry 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


This is a light curry sauce, lovely with the lentils and chicken. Depending on how you feel, you could replace the chicken with fish, or just let the lentils provide the protein and serve some rice on the side. I’ve used apple instead of cucumber as the accompaniment which makes a lovely crisp change.

Creamy Chicken and Black Beluga Lentil Curry Recipe


1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli (LEAVE OUT CHILLI FOR KIDS)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small skinless chicken breasts, 160g each
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger (approximately 1.5cm piece)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
400ml chicken stock
150ml whipping cream
50g ground almonds
2 packs Ready to Eat Black Beluga® Lentils
8 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 large red apple
20 large leaves of mint
zest and juice of 1 large lemon


  • Preheat your oven to 200c/Fan 180c/Gas 6.
  • Mix the spices together, separate into one third and two thirds. Set the two thirds aside.
  • Place the chicken breasts shiny side up with the fatter end facing away from you on the baking tray. Brush with 1 tablespoon of oil, season with salt then rub the one third of the spice mixture over the top.
  • Put the tray in the oven with the fatter end of the breasts towards the back and cook for 14 minutes. Turn the oven off, open the door and leave it slightly ajar while the chicken rests for at least 5minutes and as much as 10minutes.
  • To make the curry sauce, put 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a large shallow saucepan, add the onions, garlic and ginger then cover and soften over medium heat for 6minutes.
  • Add the tomato puree and the two thirds of the spice mixture.
  • Turn the heat to high and then fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add the almonds, chicken stock and cream, bring to boil, turn the heat down then simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the lentils, simmer for 2minutes then season to taste with salt.
  • Cut the apple in half, remove the core then chop into small chunks, mix with the lemon zest, lemon juice and the mint.
  • Slice the chicken breasts (optional), put them onto the lentils then spoon the apple relish and yogurt over the top.

Prep Ahead:

The curried lentils will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and also freeze very well.

Kids Corner:

Both my boys, aged 4 years and 20 months at time of writing, like gentle curries. When I gave Jake the spices to smell before they were cooked he didn’t like their smell, but he loved the mixture on the chicken and with the lentils. This was a great reminder that it is almost never a problem to season food for kids with spices; it is simply the quantities, so go easy and leave out the chilli powder.

In my experience kids also love to add things to their dinner, so having the yogurt and apple on the side is a huge plus.

The curried lentils make a lovely puree for babies.

Serves: 4

Merchant Gourmet


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