There are dishes in life for which everyone has a recipe – this is one such dish. However, as with most, it is eminently possible for one to put in a little more effort and have ones mouth reap the rewards. In my experience, macaroni cheese is best when it isn’t overpowered by the flavour of a catastrophic quantity of mature cheddar; that’s not to say that it shouldn’t contain cheddar, but it needs a little more complexity to become truly exceptional. By far the best way of accomplishing this feat is to infuse the milk used to make the cheese sauce – it adds a surprising depth of flavour which gives the dish a certain gastronomic eloquence.
Don’t let me limit the scope of your mind regarding the flavours with which you ought to infuse your milk. However, the most commonly used ingredients in this process are things like bay leaves, cloves, pepper corns and onions. A pinch of nutmeg also goes down well, particularly in pasta dishes like this or lasagne. It takes a little extra time, but the process of infusing your milk is rather simple and will infinitely improve any milk based sauces you make. Guidance about how to infuse your milk can be found below, though I suspect most of you have some experience of it already.
You’ll be glad to hear that my life in Bristol is going rather well; the estate agent has seen fit to do some work and as a result we now have a flat. The job is also going particularly well and I’m enjoying writing about more important issues than food. Actually, who am I kidding? There’s nothing more important than food. On with the recipe!
• 600ml semi-skimmed milk
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 cloves
• 1 onion, halved
• 5-6 peppercorns
• A pinch of nutmeg
• ½ tsp Dijon mustard
• 200g mature cheddar cheese
• 2 tbsp flour
• 1 tbsp butter
• 350g pasta, macaroni or similar
• 50g parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper
1. Begin by infusing your milk. To do this simply heat the milk over a low heat along with the bay leaves, the onion studded with the cloves, peppercorns, a pinch of nutmeg and a little Dijon mustard. Heat for up to an hour if possible, but half an hour will do nicely. Make sure not to let it boil.
2. Put the pasta on to boil and preheat the oven to 200C. Sieve the milk to remove the bay leaves et al. Heat the butter in a saucepan, mix in the flour, cook for a minute or two before whisking in the milk and cheese. It should achieve the consistency of slightly thin custard. Drain the cooked pasta, mix the cheese sauce in and transfer into a casserole dish. Season in necessary.
3. Grate the parmesan over the top of the pasta, sprinkle over some cracked black pepper and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.
Cost: Macaroni cheese is one of those very basic recipes that seems to always cost very little to prepare. This recipe is no different and should set one back a mere £1.80.