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.

Spicy macaroni cheese
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish


  • 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

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  2. In a large pan of salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Gradually add the milk, stirring all the time until the mixture starts to thicken.
  5. When thick enough, take it off the heat, add a generous pinch of black pepper and stir in the cheese until it melts.
  6. 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.
32 Responses to "spicy macaroni cheese"
  1. Love the sound of that cheese – what a beautiful addition to your macaroni!

  2. Mal says:

    I love adding black pepper to my mac and cheese too!

  3. oh dear, hold me. this just made me crave mac and cheese more than i ever have before. yours looks so good and i LOVE the crunchy top. i think everything should have a crunchy top. ok, so come make me this and i’ll make you drunk chicken :)

  4. Great photos – I love the overflow of yummy cheesy sauce. Cute dishes too!

  5. Hannah says:

    Totally with you on the Januaries…I’ve taken to looking up last minute holidays despite having no annual leave coming up at all! The macaroni looks soo tasty :)

  6. Love the idea of spicy mac & cheese! yum.

  7. london bakes says:

    @Leaf – The cheese is really good on its own too but nothing is better than a bowl of macaroni cheese!

    @Mal – Black pepper is a must and sometimes I add a pinch of nutmeg too which is really nice.

    @Julie – The crunchy top was by far the best bit!

    @Nicola – While that was accident rather than design, I’ll take the compliment ;)

    @Hannah – Haha, I’ve done exactly the same thing too!

    @Leah – Thank you (& thank you for pinning it!)

  8. Caz says:

    Thanks for the tip about the gluten free sauce, perfect for me to try with some gluten free pasta!

  9. Kristin says:

    That sounds like a great addition the mac n cheese. I once used a habanero cheddar and it was delicious.
    (Holy Cannoli Recipes)

  10. Leanne says:

    Darlin’ you are singing my song– this looks incredible, and it’s so grey and gloomy here it’s be perfect for dinner tonight! I just need to be sure to use appropriately sized bowls, like yours … otherwise I have too much opportunity to nibble my way through a pan. Yikes!

  11. Summer does feel like an awfully long time ago doesn’t it?? These look so delicious! I was actually going to make a mac and cheese for my book club tomorrow but have now decided on chicken chili (my girlfriends are such carnivores!) However, I intend to make this for me and L in the very near future. Smoked cheddar is my new obsession…

  12. Macaroni cheese is one of my favourite comfort foods ever. I always make it how my Mum and Granny both did, with a hint of mustard in the white sauce, a few tomatoes on top and tiny flecks of crisp bacon running through it, but if I was going to break from tradition it would be for this recipe – love the kick of chilli to bring it to life :-)

  13. Amee says:

    Have you noticed that both of our blogs that are usually stuffed with cake and bakes have become more savory than usual and with a distinct cheese theme… I suspect if people were given the option of hibernation a lot of people would sign up for it :)

  14. I’ll take a whole vat of it. YUM! Love this, Kathryn, spice is my favorite. Yes, I’m totally ready for summer!!

  15. I love macaroni and cheese, especially one that has some kick. If I hadn’t just made some, I would be all over this like white on rice.

  16. The ultimate comfort food!!! Mac n Cheese always gives me a hug and tells me everything is going to be ok ;) Brilliant recipe and seriously am going to make this the next blistery day we’ve got ;) xo

  17. Looks utterly scrumptious. And love the cute little blue pots. Really great photo.

  18. london bakes says:

    @Leanne – Haha, yeah I was trying to use the little pots as portion control. It didn’t entirely work…

    @Em – Smoked cheddar would be amazing too! Love that idea!

    @thelittleloaf – I usually replace the mustard with nutmeg but otherwise I normally do the same as you. Sometimes I put in leeks too if I’m being healthy (well, as healthy as you can be…)

    @Amee – Lol, so true! We are obviously on the same wavelength ;)

    @Cassie – I’m glad I’m not the only one who could have a whole vat! It’s so sunny here that it feels like summer but I have a feeling that I’m going to need to wrap up very warm when I go outside…

    @marthameetslucy – I don’t think that should be any hindrance to making it again ;)

    @Elaina – Thanks lovely! I’m sure it’s cold enough with you to need a big bowl of comfort food!

    @Skye – Thank you so much, they are my favourite little pots!

  19. This looks so similar to the Bon Appetit buffalo mac and cheese that I made last weekend! Yum! As for the Januaries, um, yes. I am obsessed with the idea of taking a vacation right now.

  20. Angharad says:

    Yes to having the Januaries sadly but more importantly YES to this macaroni cheese (and thanks for reminding me that it’s not macaroni AND cheese….I’ve become so American!). It looks like just the ticket love.

  21. london bakes says:

    @Lindsay – Ooh I saw your pic but I will have to check the recipe out! Thanks for the tip!

    @Angharad – I’ve never understood why it is macaroni and cheese rather than macaroni cheese but always happy to provide a reminder of the ‘proper’ way ;)

  22. Those dishes are so cute! Macaroni cheese is ace, I like the idea of adding chilli to it too.

  23. when I need my food to give me a hug – this is totally what I go for too! I drench mine in chili powder and cayenne pepper so it packs a punch!

    Hope your 2012 starts rocking your socks and hugging you like this meal probably is — mine isn’t and i’m determined to make it! lol

    happy to find your blog =) its gorgeous!

  24. This sounds incredible. I love mac and cheese and with a twist…..yum!

  25. kyleen says:

    I definitely have a case of the Januaries. It’s been such a cold slash gray slash snowy but mostly gray month. Luckily I don’t have exams since I go to a full-year school (or maybe unluckily since this means I have seven exams at the end of the year!). This spicy mac and cheese definitely looks the thing to cheer me up!

  26. This would definitely break the monotony of January! I live in Phoenix and the sunny, warm weather help keep them off for the most part, but it does seem at times like this month is never ending and the next vacation is so far away!

  27. tori says:

    macaroni and cheese is the only thing to break the Januaries. And a large glass of wine on the side.

  28. mmm anything spicy is my favorite! and anything with cheese! and pasta!! mmmM!

  29. london bakes says:

    @Julia – Thank you! As with most things in my life, they’re from John Lewis!

    @Jenn – Off to check out your blog now! So glad you stopped by :)

    @Culinary college – Thanks!

    @kyleen – Gosh I think the only thing that could make January worse would be exams, very glad for you that you don’t have them!

    @Baking Serendipity – Ah yes, I expect Phoenix is slightly warmer than England right now!

    @tori – Definitely wine too!

    @Elizabeth – Glad you like it!!

  30. peasepudding says:

    Wow, you have made that look amazing! I used to feel like that after all the excitement of new year had gone, fortunately now living in NZ we have summer to look forward to

  31. Suzan Garrett says:

    I steam onions, and freshly finely chopped jalepeno peppers and add them to the mixture, along with a healthy shake of crushed red pepper flakes! There is never any leftovers!

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