Awesome macaroni cheese


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.


Ingredients

  • 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


Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  1. Cook the pasta in slightly salted water (however long the pasta says, normally about 10 minutes or so)

  2. Cook the leeks with one tablespoon of butter over a medium-high heat, until soft. Add the chopped bacon and cook until soft

  3. Melt the other tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Once melted add the flour and whisk into a paste.

  4. 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

  5. Add the bay leaves to the sauce and bring to a gentle simmer over a low heat (stirring occasionally)

  6. 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

  7. In an oven proof dish, mix the drained pasta, cheese sauce and bacon and leeks, mix through

  8. 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)

  9. 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.




rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Recipe: Lemon & mustard Sausages


So here's what happened.  Yesterday, my older son kept going on about how sausages were his favourite food. The last two dinner times, the question of whether we were having sausages (and why not) came up, with yesterday's dinner resulting in him marching to the freezer to get them out for himself.

Fast forward to this morning, and I wake up with sausages on my mind.  You ever been to some catered event with canap├ęs, where they have little wholegrain mustard cocktail sausages? That's what I was in the mood for.  Not having either sausages or mustard in the house, I had to go shopping.



I can't take much credit for this recipe, as it is largely based on a pork belly recipe from Nigel Slater's Real Cooking book.

The pork belly recipe is a fantastic slow-cook casserole, with the fat from the pork belly acting as lubricant and the meat slowly turning melt-in-your-mouth.  However, that recipe assumes 1) you have 4+ hours cooking & prep time 2) you have pork belly (and some other fancier ingredients).  I had sausages and approximately 40 minutes to get food ready, so needed some tuning.

The only real constraints I had was that I wanted mustard sausages, but remembering the Nigel Slater pork belly, and how well the lemon cuts through the mustard & pork I figured it was worth a punt.

It tastes good. And for those adverse to mustard, it isn't actually that mustard-y, well not, hot mustard-y anyway.


Ingredients

  • 8 pork sausages. I just used supermarket standard sausages
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard 
  • 1 lemon


Method

Preheat the oven to about 170 degrees (I just went by what the sausages said for cooking, so do that)
  1. In a casserole dish, melt the butter on the hob, once melted, chuck in the onions and cook on a medium heat until slightly translucent and soft.  In the pork belly recipe, Nigel Slater starts by oven cooking the onions and some garlic in the oven for 25 minutes. If you have the time and the inclination, you could do this too (I happened to have 15 mins before the sausages had to go on so having initially cooked the onions in the butter on the hob, I then stuck them in the oven whilst I chopped potatoes)

  2. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of wholegrain mustard. You could always go 1 1/2 tablespoons if you wanted.  Then chop the lemon in to 4 and squeeze in the juice. Stir, the mustard, lemon juice, onions and butter together

  3. Add the sausages, and mix up a bit so the mustard-lemon-onion-butter sauce is coating the sausages. Then add the 4 lemon quarter shells on top. Stick in the oven and cook for 25mins (again I was just going by the sausage cooking times) - I had my pot covered for the first half, but its not really going to make much difference in this time frame

  4. Once cooked, discard the lemon shells and serve. I served with mash potato, but it would be awesome with crusty bread - especially to mop up the mustard-lemon-onion-butter (in fact I have saved some of the juices and 1 sausage from the left overs for lunch tomorrow!)
rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Recipe: Slow cooked ragu


Not much creativity this week I'm afraid, and if you have tried/read the slow cooked beef recipe then you will notice quite a few similarities between the two.  The end result is quite different, but both share the rich, sticky reduced quality of slow cooking, possibly this one even more so on account of the addition of tomatoes to the recipe.



Before hitting the shops yesterday, I was planning to use diced lamb - partly for the flavour, but also because I was planning on flaking/forking the meat after slow cooking so it would disperse in the sauce more. But no joy - they didn't have diced lamb in the supermarket (elder boy was with me, so couldn't pop to the other shop as he was getting bored by this point).  I was also planning to serve with pappardelle  but was also out of luck on that front, so went with fresh tagliatelle (but can be served with anything really!)


Ingredients

  • 500g diced beef (or lamb)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • flour
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 100ml red wine 
  • parmesan (optional)
  • a splash of cream/milk
  • salt & pepper for seasoning

Method

Open meat and salt generously before hand. Preheat oven to about 150 degrees.
  1. heat the butter in a pan, add the chopped onion, carrot and celery. As before, slowly cook those over a medium-high heat until soft and slightly browned

  2. Add the beef to the pan and brown. Then remove meat (I just stick the meat in the casserole dish for later)

  3. Add the tomato puree, oregano to the pan and cook for a minute or so. The oregano and tomato puree will have made the vegetable base fairly thick already, but sprinkle a little flour to really bring it all together

  4. Add the tinned tomatos, 200ml cold water & red wine to the pan and reduce until it starts to thicken (probably around 5-10mins

  5. Pour the tomato sauce base into the casserole dish (assuming your beef is already in there), and stir through. Then top up with boiling water, so all the meat is submerged

  6. Cover the dish and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours, stirring every hour or so.

  7. By about three hours it will probably be reduced to a fairly thick, tomato goo (in a good way) - if it is reduced too soon, then just top up with boiling water from the kettle.

  8. Add a handful of grated parmesan (if using) and then add a splash of cream/milk - this will just bind the sauce together and off set the acidity/decadence of the tomato/wine sauce!

  9. Serve and eat. With more cheese probably. And bread. And Pasta. Whatever..


rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen