Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Mac n Cheese for grownups

on January 14, 2011

I have to say, despite it being a firm favourite in many American homes (and probably British too), I am not a fan of macaroni cheese.  I think it stems from two reasons.  First, because it happened first, is that my mum used to make cauliflower cheese a lot when I was a kid and I’d always confuse that with macaroni cheese.   And I hate cauliflower.  Don’t know why.  There’s nothing particularly offensive about it, I just don’t like it.  So I used to think I was getting macaroni cheese and I’d end up with cauliflower instead and be dissapointed and have associated macaroni cheese with cauliflower ever since!

And the second reason, and probably more pertinent, is that one of my first meals when I first got to boarding school, when I was really missing home and all confused, was macaroni cheese.  Now, when you imagine boarding school food, you must remember this was a strict Brethren Christian British boarding school in southern India, full of missionary kids. who’s parents had no money.  They did not spend money on food if they could help it (it being a sin and all that to waste money) and they most certainly didn’t waste money on anyone that might be able to cook.  At all.  Let alone for 300 + people with the cheapest possible ingredients.   Developing eating disorders there was certainly not difficult.  I more or less lived off wai wai noodles, eggs and tang.  For those of you who don’t know what that means – be grateful.

Now I’m not complaining, it was an interesting period in my life.  And my guilty secret addiction is still wai wais (I’ve thankfully given up the tang!).   I met many wonderful people, many of whom I’m still in touch with thanks to the miracle of facebook, and who read this blog.  Plus, I got a good education which has got me where I am now.  It could be worse.   But no one, is going to suggest that the food at school was good, or even really edible.  The exceptions being Miss Lily’s chicken soup and chicken pie.  Which she only made when we were ill or all the kitchen staff were off or on strike or something.

I have to say, there was nothing more disgusting about school mac n cheese than anything else, but ‘congealed goup’ would probably sum it up quite well.  And to top it all off, on that fateful first day or two when I attempted to eat it (not realising quite how horrible it was – that came later) I accidentally threw an entire salt pot over it, because I also hadn’t worked out that the lids of the salt shakers didn’t stay on.  Well you live and learn.  And from then on, avoided the salt and definitely didn’t eat macaroni cheese.  I also learnt that marmite makes most things more edible.  But that’s a whole other story.

So why, you ask, if I hate macaroni cheese this much, am I writing a blog post about it?  Well, desperate times call for desperate measures.  I am officially afflicted with the January-skintness.  It’s an unpleasant affliction but it passes, normally by February.  And it’s self-inflicted so I can’t really complain.   So, in order to make such a thing more palatable, I jazzed it all up!  This is not the version you want to serve children.  They’ll hate you and probably develop as much an aversion to it as I did.  However, if like me, you don’t have any to offend, then this is a totally brilliant way of reinventing age-old comfort food.

I should say, before I get a load of comments pointing this out – I didn’t make it with macaroni!  So really the only thing in it that’s like the original is the cheese!  But I did use pasta – penne to be precise, because its cheap and cheerful and I’m grown up enough to know that pasta tastes more or less the same regardless of it’s shape.

I should point out though, that as a result of making it, my husband gave me his bank card and told me to go shopping!  That’s not a comment on my cooking, he just realised how bad things had got!  I went to Aldi though, so it’s not like the next post is going to be about caviar.

Jazzy mac n cheese

Serves 2

150g pasta shapes (macaroni would be good if you had it!)

1 tbsp oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 red chillis, finely chopped (de seed ifyou don’t want too spicy)

1 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp creme fraiche (or cream, or cream cheese, or leave out)

150ml (ish) milk (more if you omit the creme fraiche)

4-6 roasted peppers in a jar, finely sliced

50g tinned sweetcorn

1 tsp mustard (I used wholegrain.  Use less if using french or english)

salt & pepper

70g grated cheddar (I used mature – the stronger the better)

2 tbsp breadcrumbs (optional)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to about 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Boil the pasta until cooked, according to the packet instructions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan, on a low heat.  Add the chilli and garlic and fry until the oil becomes infused with the flavours and the garlic starts to turn brown.
  4. Then add the flour, mix well to combine with the oil and allow to cook for a minute.  Next add the creme fraiche and mix well to combine.  Then add about 20ml of milk and mix well, combining.  Continue adding the milk in stages and mixing until you have a thin-ish sauce.  You may decide you need more or less milk.  Keep stiring the mix well to avoid getting lumps.  Bring to the boil and then simmer until the sauce is quite thick.  If it gets too thick add a bit more milk.
  5. Next add the vege and stir well.  Then add the mustard.  Stir and taste for seasoning – add as needed.  Lastly, add about 50g of the cheese.  Stir well and remove from the heat.   Stir in the pasta until its all well mixed.
  6. Tip the whole lot into a baking dish  and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs (if using).  Stick in the middle of the oven until the cheese melts and goes golden – about 15-20minutes.
  7. Serve with garlic bread, ketchup and some childishness!

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