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Meet The Chef: Alex Mackay

Meet The Chef: Alex Mackay

An inspiration behind Merchant Gourmet’s first cookbook Alex Mackay, TV chef and author, shares one of his favourite recipes from Merchant Gourmet’s The Pulses & Grains Cookbook 


Merchant Gourmet, the UK’s leading brand for grains and pulses, was founded back in 1995 by Mark and Oliver Leatham, brothers with a passion for exploring real food. Since then, the team has worked tirelessly to source the finest lentils, quinoa and wholegrains from across the world and to create nutritious range of product for its consumers. This year, Merchant Gourmet has taken its ready-to-eat pulses and wholegrain-based brand, along with its quick, easy and tasty recipes, and created a treat for all in the shape of its first ever cookbook.

Alex Mackay, Guild of Food Writers award winning author, has worked with Merchant Gourmet for almost two decades, and was an inspiration towards the initial concept of creating the cookbook. He explains that the vision behind the cookbook was to reflect the brand’s mantra: providing wholesome ingredients along with inspiring, accessible and creative recipes that everyone can make. Merchant Gourmet partnered with Quadrille to publish this beautiful book that incorporates the brand’s well-known contemporary design.

From freekeh porridge with poached pears to lamb chops with mint, pomegranate couscous and pistachio pesto – Merchant Gourmet’s aim is to introduce as many people as possible to the many virtues of pulses and grains, and to help these ingredients become a part of their everyday cooking repertoire.

Alex is immensely proud of his longstanding partnership with Merchant Gourmet and has selected Shakshuka with Lentils and Feta as one of his favourite dishes to share with Cheshire Magazine. He believes it’s a great, versatile meal that you can create for breakfast, lunch or dinner and its vibrant colour and flavour never disappoints. This dish is a prime example of how versatile and delicious Merchant Gourmet’s pulses, grains and chestnuts can be.

The hearty and spicy vegetable stew is inspired by the one-pot Middle Eastern cuisine. Beluga lentils, which gets their name from their resemblance to beluga caviar, add that extra bit of protein to keep you fuller for longer. Don’t forget the sourdough bread to soak up the extra juices!

Merchant Gourmet’s The Pulses & Grains Cookbook is available to purchase now on Amazon and selected Waterstones stores. For more delicious recipes you can go to:


Shakshuka with Lentils and Feta


Serves 4 People

1 onion , 3 cloves of garlic , 2 tbsp olive oil , 1 large jar of flame-roasted red peppers (280g drained weight) , ½ tsp smoked paprika , 2 tbsp tomato purée , 2 tbsp harissa , 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes , 1 x 250g pouch of ready cooked Beluga Lentils , 4 free-range eggs , 4 tbsp natural yoghurt or labneh , 30g feta, crumbled , 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley , salt and black pepper 

To Serve:

Toasted sourdough bread


  • Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a wide, shallow pan or large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic and fry for about 6 minutes until the onion has softened and started to caramelize. 

  • Drain the peppers, reserving the liquid for the sauce. Slice the peppers into 1cm wide strips. 

  • Add the paprika, tomato purée and harissa to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and liquid from the pepper jar, followed by the sliced peppers and lentils. Season with salt and pepper and give everything a good stir, then cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

  • Make 4 indentations in the sauce with the back of a large spoon and crack an egg into each. As you add them to the hot sauce, the eggs should hold their shape but don’t worry if one breaks or sinks as it will still all taste delicious! Cover the pan with a lid if you have one and cook for about 10 minutes or until egg whites are just set. 

  • Serve topped with the yoghurt or labneh, the crumpled feta and chopped parsley. Accompany with toasted sourdough bread. 

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