This is the second recipe from local chef Oliver Rowe in our weekly series of quarantine cooking recipes – flexible dishes where you can add, subtract and adapt almost any of the ingredients you buy locally.
Rowe’s comforting Mac & Cheese feeds four people and is the perfect family and vegetarian-friendly dish. Don’t worry if you can’t find macaroni in the shops, this recipe is super adaptable.
‘The key to this recipe is the sauce. A good cheese sauce is incredibly versatile and will make a delicious meal out of almost anything,’ Rowe explains.
As many of these aromatics as you have:
1 small onion, quartered
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
1 sprig parsley
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of thyme
1 pinch of whole fennel seeds
5 or 6 peppercorns
2 or 3 whole cloves
40g plain flour
1tsp wholegrain mustard
350g macaroni or other pasta. (Some shapes may need a bit more sauce. If using fusilli, just had a splash of extra milk when combining the sauce and pasta)
Salt and pepper
- With a little thought the macaroni in this recipe can be swapped with so many things. For pasta variations try fusilli with vegetables such as using a mix of pasta with cauliflower, broccoli, leek and mushroom.
- If using vegetables, follow the same method below but slightly under-boil the veg before draining well and folding it with the sauce, this way it won’t go too mushy.
- You can use nuts and seeds, or breadcrumbs on top to give it a bit of extra crunch.
- This is a cheesy vegetarian dream, but if you want to add some strips of fried bacon, chopped ham, torn up roast chicken, then they work well too.
In a saucepan, mix the aromatics into the milk and then bring it close to the boil.
Then put it to one side to infuse for 20 minutes or longer. You can do this way ahead if you like, overnight is fine. Strain before using.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the flour. Cook together, whisking often for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk, in hefty glugs at first (the second half all in one go) making sure it’s incorporated and smooth before adding more.
Return to the heat and cook for another 5 minutes, still whisking often. Grate and add 100g of the cheese and the wholegrain mustard. Season well.
Cook the macaroni or other pasta, taking care not to overcook it. A bit of bite is perfect as it will continue cooking more in under the grill. Drain well and combine with the sauce.
Fill an ovenproof dish with the pasta and cheese mixture and top with the extra 60g of grated cheddar, and a few breadcrumbs or nuts and seeds if using. Place under a medium hot grill until golden brown on top.
Local resident Oliver Rowe is a chef and author who is passionate about local, seasonal and sustainable produce. He trained at Moro before setting up his own restaurant – The Konstam – at The Prince Albert in 2006, which sourced 80% of its ingredients within Greater London. His book Food for All Seasons explores the way our lives are intertwined with food and encourages readers to engage with the seasons through cooking.
If you liked this, check out last week’s potato and chicory salad recipe.
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