Well, still to sign of healthy or lighter food around here. I guess whilst the weather is still cold I might as well make the most of it and continue to cook ridiculously un-healthy, stodgy food. I was looking for something a little different yesterday, but in the end I didn't have long before the rugby started today so just went with what I know.
Mac & cheese is apparently recovering from a bad reputation of bad school dinners and generally poorly made meals, but I'm not really sure how. It seems to me that making a good macaroni cheese is as simple as using good cheese. This recipe has a few components, but really if need be it can be boiled down (not literally) to just the cheese sauce.
The cheese sauce is thick, smooth and cheesy, which works well with the leek & bacon. I serve/eat it with cherry tomatoes to brighten it up and provide some much needed acidity to the rich cheese sauce.
- 250g pasta (I went with amori pasta this time)
- 250g strong (mature) cheddar - I suspect it goes without saying, but the stronger the cheese, the stronger the sauce!
- 65g of smoked cheddar (this quantity is made up, as usual, based on the amount of smoked cheddar I had to hand, but having cooked with smoked cheddar before, if you put too much in you will have an overwhelming smoked cheese flavour - so I would recommend sticking to not much more) I used Applewood smoked cheddar.
- 500ml milk (semi-skimmed, whole, whatever)
- 6 rashes smoked bacon
- 2 medium size leeks, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 for the cheese sauce, one for the leeks)
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 1 slice of bread
- parmesan for topping (optional)
- Tomatoes & salad to serve
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
- Cook the pasta in slightly salted water (however long the pasta says, normally about 10 minutes or so)
- Cook the leeks with one tablespoon of butter over a medium-high heat, until soft. Add the chopped bacon and cook until soft
- Melt the other tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Once melted add the flour and whisk into a paste.
- Slowly add the milk to the paste (still over the heat), whisking each time - the first half of the milk or so you should be able to whisk the sauce in to a fairly smooth consistency
- Add the bay leaves to the sauce and bring to a gentle simmer over a low heat (stirring occasionally)
- Once the sauce is at a slow simmer gradually, remove the bay leaves add the grated cheese, stirring in until melted each time. Once the cheese is added, stir in the mustard
- In an oven proof dish, mix the drained pasta, cheese sauce and bacon and leeks, mix through
- Over the top, sprinkle breadcrumbs and grated parmesan (I use a cheese grater to create quick breadcrumbs for the top - just grab a slice bread, hold it pretty compacted and grate)
- Add to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or so (or stick under the grill, whatever)
I served it with chopped cheery tomatoes to brighten up the meal, and add some much needed acidity to the thick cheese sauce, but also works well straight from the pan.