Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Basic Macaroni Cheese

This macaroni cheese has been requested twice in the past week. It is a very basic recipe, and there are many things that could liven it up, for example:
  1. Addition of crispy bacon or soft buttery leeks to the pasta mixture
  2. Use of other cheeses in your sauce
  3. Sprinkling breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni cheese and baking till crisp
  4. A scrape of fresh nutmeg to the cheese sauce
  5. Infusing your milk by heating gently with chopped carrot, onion, celery, black peppercorns and bay leaf, then letting it cool for 30 minutes before straining
It's a current favourite of my children and their friends, and I keep it fairly simple, but tasty. I find that the vital piece of equipment for making the sauce smooth and glossy is a silicone balloon whisk. It gets right into the edges of the saucepan without scraping any of the surface off it! It can feel a bit daunting when making the roux for the first time, especially as you add the first amounts of milk. Make sure you give the flour enough time to cook in the butter and don't panic when the whole lot thickens as you begin to add the milk! Just keep whisking and it should loosen up again.

I love Colman's mustard powder on roasties and in a white sauce. You would think it would get up your nose like the English mustard paste, but used in sparing quantities, it lends a subtle interest to the sauce.

  • 500g dried macaroni
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 70g of butter
  • 4 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 level teaspoon of Colman's mustard powder
  • A pinch of ground white pepper
  • A big handful (approx. 80g) of grated cheddar cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top
Serves 5 - 6

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil
  • In a separate pan, melt the butter over a gentle/medium heat. When it has melted, add the flour and whisk until completely combined (it's ok if the butter bubbles, but don't let it burn). Continue to whisk for a minute or two to let the starch cook

  • Add the milk a little at a time, continuing to whisk continuously. the mixture will thicken and solidify. Continue to whisk, only adding more milk when the previous amount has completely absorbed into the roux. If you add too much milk at this stage, the sauce will become lumpy

  • Eventually the sauce will loosen and become easier to handle. You can increase the heat a little at this stage, but be careful not to let the sauce boil.

  • Add the macaroni to the pan of boiling water and stir, to stop it from sticking. Cook the macaroni for half of the time indicated on the packet e.g. if cooking time is 12 minutes, cook the macaroni for 6 minutes (at this stage you will be working with two pans - stirring the pasta and adding/whisking the sauce)
If the sauce is too thick, continue to add milk until you reach the desired consistency.
If the sauce is too thin, combine a teaspoon of plain flour with a small quantity (say 25ml) of milk and add to the sauce, repeating until you reach the desired consistency. You will need to increase the heat to almost boiling point to activate the additional starch.

  • When all of the milk has been added to the sauce, add the grated cheese and whisk until fully melted into the sauce
  • Drain the macaroni and place in a baking tray. Pour over the sauce, ensuring all of the macaroni is covered and bake in the oven for 20 minutes

  • Remove the tray from the oven and add grated cheese on top. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes

  • Remove the finished bake. Serve in warmed dishes with a simply-cooked green vegetable such as broccoli, green beans or spinach

Basic Macaroni Cheese

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