Monday, May 18, 2009

Mac & Cheese

The humble Macaroni and Cheese seems to have been enjoying a sudden new lease of popularity. Once derided as humble nursery fare and indeed E's impression of it is "horrible dessicated re-hydrated Kraft instant TV dinner", the Sunday Times carried a feature a few weeks back about how different restaurants have been reinventing their own versions (Morton's of Chicago, Spruce, The White Rabbit).

The version here is from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, and I loved it. The herbs make all the difference, and I find it really attractive that one can easily whip up something so tasty with ingredients that are likely to be readily available in your pantry, and with very minimal effort.

Recipe (adapted from The Kitchen Diaries), serves 2
Small macaroni, penne or other short hollow dried pasta - 175g
full-cream milk: 500 ml
small onion, peeled and halved
a bay leaf
butter: 30g
plain flour: 30g
white peppercorns: 5 (I substituted this with a tiny pinch of dried mixed herbs)
Fontina cheese: 75g (I used aged mature cheddar which was what I had in the fridge)
smooth Dijon mustard: 0.5 teaspoon (I skipped this, not having any mustard)
grain mustard: 1 teaspoons (I skipped this)
fresh white breadcrumbs: 40g (I grated homemade bread to make breadcrumbs)
grated cheese - 2 tablespoons

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until tender, about 8 -9 minutes, and drain well. Warm the milk in a saucepan with onion and bay leaves. Turn off the heat as it comes to the boil. Melt the butter in another pan, add the flour and stir over moderate heat until a pale biscuit-coloured paste forms. Gradually pour in the milk and whisk till there are no lumps, then simmer over a very low heat until the sauce is the consistency of double cream, stirring continuously all the while. Crush the white peppercorns and season the sauce with the white pepper, a good grinding of black pepper and very little salt. Fold the drained pasta, the diced cheese and the mustard into the sauce.

Tip the mixture into a gratin dish. Toss the breadcrumbs with the grated cheese and scatter over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes. Check after 25 minutes for burning.

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