Tuesday, 15 February 2011

'Grown up' Mac and Cheese

I have a bit of a problem when it comes to watching foody TV shows. As in I watch them all...even if they're bad. Sometimes though, one comes along that you don't have particularly high expectations of and it rocks! It's just a shame that it finished this week...

This recipe comes courtesy of the Lorraine Pascale's 'Baking Made Easy'. Pretty much everything this girl whips up makes me want to get the scales out, put the pinny on get cracking. She makes everything look so effortless and she convinces you think that, yes, I can make that three tier look like it's just walked out of a fancy, schmancy cake shop. Lorraine used to be a top model, working with the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in the nineties. But, after deciding that she wanted to do something more worthwhile, she found cooking. She now has her own bakery in Covent Garden, London selling celebration cakes. I'm not jealous at all...not in the slightest. Yes, I'm lying.

So now for the star of the show...trust me, this is good.

After years of categorically stating that I hated blue cheese, I recently discovered that I do in fact love it. See, I do admit when I'm wrong. So at the minute I'm loving anything that has the words blue and cheese in the title. I wasn't even going to write about this but I think that it needs to be shared. I rarely make anything twice except for the staples. You know the ones, spaghetti bolognaise, shepherd's pie, pasta, pasta, pasta. But this my friends is going on the staples list. So it should feel very proud of it's self. Not just any old rubbish makes it onto this special list of mine. 

It's basically a rich, 'grown up' mac and cheese. The sauce is made from blue cheese and parmesan which is so good. The original recipe, which you can find here, only uses pancetta for the meat but I think my protein loving boyfriend would have had something to say about that so I bulked it up with some chicken. In fact, I think this recipe could be really easily played around with with fantabulous results. Maybe spinach mixed through, or broccoli, or leeks or...my word the possibilities are endless. Go for it, use your imagination.

Also, the original recipe calls for dolcelatte or gorgonzola cheese but I couldn't find dolcelatte and as I'm loving Stilton right now, I went with that and it turned out mighty fine. This was so nice nice that I made it 3 times in a week and as the recipe uses a mix of cream and milk for the cheese sauce it was getting a bit rich so I tried it with just milk which worked too. I've adapted the recipe to use only milk but if you're not going to eat it three nights in a row and want to go full fat, then take a look at the original recipe.

Adapted from Lorraine Pascale 'Baking Made Easy'

Serves 4

A little tip...I'd never made a white sauce from a rue before, (criminal I know) so due to my ignorance, I cooked it for too long and it ended up waaaaay too thick. So, unlike me, don't be a rebel and do as the method says. I just loosened it with a bit more milk so don't panic if the same happens to you. 

340g macaroni
3 chicken fillets, cut into chunks
80g pancetta, diced
small handful of fresh thyme leaves
3 spring onions
100g fresh breadcrumbs

For the cheese sauce

40g butter
40g plain flour
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp English mustard powder
485ml milk
200g Blue Stilton
115g parmasan, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C

Cook the macaroni in a large pan of salted water for about 10 minutes. The pasta should be just under as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and return to the pan and set aside. I normally add a little flavourless oil to the pasta of it's going to be sitting around otherwise it will end up as one large giant pasta ball...not what you're after.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan and fry the chicken until starting to brown but not quite cooked as it  will also continue to cook in the oven. Remove and add to the pasta pan. In the same pan fry the pancetta until it just starts to brown and crisp up, then add the thyme leaves and spring onions and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove and add to the pan with the pasta and chicken.

For the sauce, put the butter, flour, nutmeg and mustard powder in a pan over a medium heat until the butter has melted. A little at a time, add the milk to the pan stirring all the time. Keep adding the milk bit by bit until it is all incorporated. Don't be tempted to add the milk all in one go as you'll end up with a lumpy sauce. If this does happen, take the sauce off the heat and whisk like crazy which should sort it out.

Once all the milk has been added, turn the heat up and boil for a minute or two. (This is where I went wrong first time when I ended up cooking it for about five minutes so be warned!) Remove the pan from the heat, add the two thirds of the blue cheese and parmasan and stir until fully combined. It might be a bit lumpy but heck, it's cheese so that's not a bad thing! Season to taste and be careful not to eat too much straight from the pan.

Add the sauce to the pasta and meat and give it a good mix. Spoon the mixture into a shallow casserole dish or four large individual ramekins.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and the top is golden brown.

Yum, yum.

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