Does anyone else have a touch of the Januaries?
It’s not so much unhappiness, more a sort of general malaise. The new year that seemed so bright and fresh and sparkling not so long ago now feels a bit jaded. I’m super busy at work at the moment but rather than relax when I come home in the evenings, I feel restless. Last weekend, I had the most brutal clear out of my wardrobe that I can remember. I’ve started counting down the days until my next holiday (69 days if you’re interested). Lunchtimes are spent browsing houses that we could buy even though we have no intention of moving. Anything to break the monotony of these grey days.
I’ve talked before about comfort food, the kind of food that gives you a hug and tells you that everything is going to be okay. Above all else, macaroni cheese always wins out for me. It is not far removed from nursery food, undemanding but supremely satisfying and just what I feel like at the moment.
When I saw a block of strong, crumbly cheddar in the supermarket the other day that was laced with flecks of diablo chilli, I knew that it would make a fantastic macaroni cheese. And I wasn’t wrong. The little flecks of chilli bring just enough subtle heat to kick the dish up a notch without being overpowering and the mature cheese has a wonderful depth of flavour. A good cheddar (or other cheese of your choice) with the addition a pinch chilli or cayenne pepper would no doubt be a more than adequate substitute.
A few words on the recipe itself. My opinion of how much macaroni cheese it is acceptable to eat in one sitting may differ from yours (although if you think that it’s less than I do then obviously your opinion is wrong) and so you may want to tweak the amount of macaroni as you see fit.
As I have mentioned before, I always use cornflour/cornstarch when making the sauce rather than plain/AP flour. This is mainly, I admit, through force of habit but it does mean that your sauce is naturally gluten free if you are that way inclined. I should also add that I’ve never had a single problem making a roux-based sauce this way whereas I struggle when using plain flour to get it smooth enough and thick enough.
So let’s fill these last few days of January with good food and good times before we welcome February with open arms.
- 200g macaroni
- 35g butter
- 30g cornflour or plain flour
- 450ml milk
- 175g + 25g cheese with chilli or plain cheese and 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
- Generous pinch of black pepper
- 25g breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
- In a large pan of salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In another pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a paste. Cook for a minute or two until the paste starts bubbling.
- Gradually add the milk, stirring all the time until the mixture starts to thicken.
- When thick enough, take it off the heat, add a generous pinch of black pepper and stir in the cheese until it melts.
- Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, stir and pour into an ovenproof dish. Top with more cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 20-30mins until the top is golden and bubbling.