Thursday, 21 April 2011

Macaroni & Cheese

Saturday night we ate out in the delightfully kitsch Trafford Centre, opting for pan-Asian cuisine at Tampopo. The food was very good for a reasonable price, and they had those lovely large spiced Indonesian prawn crackers and a good selection of Asian beers. Then we hit the mini-golf and Laser Quest; I narrowly won the former, and as a team we utterly destroyed the opponents in the latter. Although one team did consist of a slightly overweight dad and two small children, and were essentially cannon-fodder. Hellstorm, Punky Fish and Captain Atom ruled the day ;)

Sunday we visited the scenic caves of Stockport, then had a relaxing drive home, taking the scenic route over the Peak District via Chesterfield, later driving through the low-traffic neon streets, which to me is like driving in some sort of utopian future. Having eaten a big carvery lunch, we refueled on the go with oranges and cereal bars, getting back in to Cambridge for a bowl of filled pasta before bedtime. Driving's still pretty exhausting for me, and Monday I awoke very tired, so in the evening I craved easy comfort food and an early night. As we had almost nothing in the house it was difficult to figure out something to cook in my tired state, but after a few minutes I realised I had a perfect set of ingredients for the ultimate comfort food.

  • 300 g of dried pasta, preferably small and tubular
  • 1 small white onion
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • 350 ml milk
  • a wedge of butter
  • 1 tbsp plain or cornflour
  • 175 g soft white goat's or sheep's milk cheese
  • a few slices of old bread or the end of a baguette
  • parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Boil the pasta in plenty of water for its packet cooking time. Peel and halve the onion, and put it and the bay leaf and milk in a pyrex bowl or pan. Microwave or heat for 10 minutes, watching toward the end so that it does not boil over. When it comes close to the boil, remove from the heat. Microwave the butter in another pyrex jug or bowl until melted, then stir in the cornflour. Discard the onion from the milk, and a few tbsp at a time, stir the hot milk into the roux, until you have a white sauce. Microwave for a further minute, to bring back up to heat; it doesn't need to thicken in the jug.

Drain the pasta, break the cheese into small pieces, and combine them gently in a shallow casserole dish. ( I like to only just cover the bottom of a shallow dish, rather than stack up lots of pasta in a deep one; that way everyone gets more crispy topping!) Season with black pepper, then pour over the white sauce. Using an electric blender, whiz the bread until you have rough breadcrumbs; sprinkle these over the top, and then add a little finely grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Serve with a lemony spinach salad or sliced ripe tomatoes with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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