Friday, 7 January 2011

Beating my food nemesis

It seems to me that everyone has a particular food that they just can't stand... you know... that one that makes your stomach gurgle just at the thought of it. Actually, I have 3 things that do that to me: lychee, tinned butter beans and macaroni cheese.

The macaroni cheese thing was compounded when I was about 10 year old and my grandma dished it up for dinner and my grandpa insisted I ate it despite me not liking the stuff. So I never really expected the stuff to re-enter my life after that. But one summer when Steve's son was on holiday with us he chose a macaroni cheese ready-meal for his dinner and my eldest daughter took an interest in it, saying she thought she might like it. And indeed, on trying it, she did. That meant, that every now and then I would buy her a macaroni cheese ready-meal. But then I began to wonder what I was doing! Macaroni cheese is bad enough but a ready-meal... what was I thinking?!

There really isn't anything to making macaroni cheese - as long as you are not frightened by the prospect of making a rue. It is, after all, simply some boiled macaroni pasta covered in a cheesy sauce. Very basic and inexpensive store cupboard ingredients. I would give you the recipe but I never weigh or measure anything. Here's the basic gist:

Put some macaroni in a pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 10 minutes until tender. In the meantime, put a knob of butter into the bottom of a non-stick pan and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula whilst you heat it gently to melt. Don't let the butter boil. Once melted, add about as much plain flour to it as there was butter and stir until it forms a little doughy ball - add more flour if necessary until this forms. It is also a nice idea to add about a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard powder when you add the flour. Stir the doughy ball around for a minute or two to cook the flour so it doesn't taste funny later. Now pour in some milk and stir. Continue adding milk, a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter. Now grate in some nice strong Cheddar cheese and stir until it has melted. Taste and add seasoning if desired or more cheese if necessary or more milk if it is too thick. Drain the pasta then pour the cheese sauce over the top and serve.

I now make macaroni cheese for my daughter on a fairly regular basis and you know what...? I've even tasted it and it isn't at all bad! Maybe my food nemesis after all was ready-made macaroni cheese.

The other night when my eldest said she fancied macaroni cheese for dinner my youngest complained, saying she wanted cheese & tomato pasta bake. "OK," I said, "you can both have what you want." So I chucked a load of macaroni in a pan to boil then made a batch of cheese sauce. Then, with a stroke of genius, I dug out a dish with a central divide. I spooned macaroni into each compartment then poured cheese sauce over one. Then I mixed a few spoonfuls of tomato pasta sauce into the remaining cheese sauce and heated it for a couple of minutes before pouring that over the second portion of macaroni. Finally, I grated some Red Leicester over both portions and put it in the oven at 160°C, gas 2 for about 15 minutes whilst I got the girls out of the bath. I have to say it looked and smelled delicious and I was pleased that there was enough of the macaroni and tomato cheesy sauce leftover for me to reheat for my lunch today.

Macaroni cheese can now be ticked off my taboo list... shall I tackle lychee or tinned butter beans next?

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