Just after Christmas I saw a tweet from The Cheeselover (who masquerades as @winematcher on Twitter) reminding the food blogging world of her Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge. My mind filled with images of steaming and pools of cheese sauce, so I went to my wardrobe in search of my thinking cap. This was a challenge I wanted to get stuck into.

Flicking through Elizabeth Raffald’s Experienced English Housekeeper, I hit on a recipe for macaroni tossed with cream, butter and flour and then finished with melted Parmesan. My mind leapt from that to Mrs Beeton’s nutmeg-scented cauliflower cheese, which I’ve been making to go with Sunday roasts since I was a teenager. Between these two dishes, there was a macaroni cheese recipe lurking that might come close to being described as The Ultimate.

This is the best kind of plain food. The bay and nutmeg do their best to take the edge off the stomach-punchingly rich flavours of the cream, cheese and butter but in the end, it’s still as warm and cosy as climbing under a pile of blankets with a hot water bottle. And after eating it, you’ll struggle to do anything other than slump into sleep. It needs a salad of bitter and spicy leaves (such radicchio, watercress and rocket) with it or after it. A pudding would probably be excessive, but if you’ve still got some Quality Street to finish, that might work.

Macaroni cheese
Serves 4

50g butter
50g plain flour
450ml whole milk
300ml double cream
1 bay leaf
350g macaroni pasta
Nutmeg, to taste
150g strong Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
30g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, then stir in the flour, a sprinkle at a time, with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste. Cook, stirring constantly for 3–5 minutes until lightly golden. Combine the milk and cream in a jug and slowly pour into the roux, a splash at a time, stirring constantly to combine. Once all the milk and cream has been added, add the bay leaf. Keep over a low heat and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes until thickened.

2 Meanwhile, add the macaroni to a large pan of boiling water and boil for 8–10 minutes, or until tender but still with some bite. Drain and return to the pan.

3 Take the sauce off the heat. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the Cheddar and Dijon. Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Pour over the macaroni and toss to coat the pasta. Spoon the pasta and sauce into a heatproof dish and sprinkle over the Parmesan. Grill for 2–3 minutes, until golden, crisp and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Tagged with: CheesePastaVegetarian

0 Responses to The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge

  1. […] The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge « Gin and Crumpets […]

  2. Luiz Hara says:

    Yummy, it looks delicious! I had Byron’s mac and cheese a month or so ago, I think it goes really well with burgers!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I am going to have so many things to try at Byron Burger when I finally haul my arse there! Thanks for the nice words 🙂

  3. Ben Posen says:

    Hey Jass,

    Not bad as recipes go…. but surely you can’t claim to have the ULTIMATE macaroni cheese without adding a teaspoon of marmite.

  4. Helen says:

    It looks delicioso! I’m just making mine now. I am loving Ben’s idea of the Marmite. Dammit!

  5. chefdylan says:

    I reckon a good slab of that Mac ‘n’ Cheese would satisfy my hunger right now!


    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I’m a little bit sad I’ve finished it. May have to make it again, taking on bard everyone’s suggestions (especially the Marmite).

  6. roastpotato says:

    I love a good warming pot of macaroni cheese. Personally I like a couple of chopped hotdogs and broccoli to round it out a bit.

    Marmite? Sounds pretty awesome to me. Would you still add mustard though?


    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Hot dogs in macaroni cheese sounds good to me (although it is lunchtime and everything food sounds good to me). Mustard cuts through the richness and I suspect Marmite might add to the richness, with all its umami goodness. I’m just going to have make two versiosn to compare and contrast!

  7. nibblescribbler says:

    Oooh. LIke the compare and contrast. Was going to add the ‘mustard’ argument into the mix, but saw Mr Roast Potato got there before me. Let us know G&C!

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