MACARONI AND CHEESE
No holiday feast or Sunday dinner is complete without a large helping of Southern-style macaroni and cheese on the side. My mother is famous as the champion mac-cheese maker, although I think I am now taking over the title. She taught me the secret of combining various strong cheeses to make the perfect blend. I feel my recipe tops hers only because over here in England there is a wider variety of farmhouse cheeses and they tend to be stronger. A few of my favourites are suggested below, but the choice is yours. Go out and experiment with an assortment of cheeses; the trick is to ensure you include at least one blue cheese. Once you have made the cheese sauce it will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days, ready for use in a variety of dishes.
500g dried macaroni 1 teaspoon olive oil salt
For the cheese sauce 75g butter 50g plain flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon Momma’s Cajun Seasoning 1 tablespoon mild American mustard (or English mustard if you want an added kick) 1 litre milk 100g Stilton cheese, crumbled 100g mature Red Leicester cheese, grated 150g mature English Cheddar cheese, grated 100g mature Wexford Irish Cheddar cheese, grated
Making a nice cheese sauce takes a little time and patience. You don’t want to walk away while it’s cooking as it can easily stick and begin to burn, and if it catches, believe me, it’s hard to get rid of the taste or disguise it. To start, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and mix until you have a smooth paste (a roux). Stir in the salt, Cajun seasoning and mustard. Continue to cook the roux for at least 1 minute; you need to make sure that the flour is cooked. Slowly add the milk, stirring while you bring it to simmering point. Once you have added all the milk, simmer for at least 5 minutes. When the sauce begins to thicken, stir in the cheeses, reserving half the English Cheddar to use as a topping. Remove from the heat.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then add some salt and the olive oil. Add the macaroni to the boiling water and cook according to the directions on the packet, or until the pasta is soft but not mushy and overdone. Drain into a colander, and transfer to a casserole or ovenproof dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir it in. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top and bake in an oven preheated to 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Whatever you do, do not allow the pasta to dry out. If it’s too dry, simply add a little milk to the dish and gently stir it in, being careful not to disturb the crusty top…