Killer Mac ’n’ Cheese
Lazy luxury with Lurpak.
I was contacted by the good folk at Lurpak recently, asking if I’d like to host their October Bake Club and be the month’s mentor, sharing my version of mac ’n’ cheese. I jumped at the chance — cook and share a dish made with lashings of lovely butter with fellow food lovers? Count me in.
Bake Club is a monthly baking challenge set by the butter brand. Each month sees a different host cook and share a recipe which is emailed to the Bake Off community, and readers then cook and post their pics of it online. It’s a great idea to get people cooking things they’ve maybe not tried before, and I like to think of so many folk up and down the country eating the same thing in the pursuit of the top spot and prize of the month. And even if you don’t win, you collect badges for your growing baking skills and get fed into the bargain.
Not to be confused with pasta bake (the British student favourite) mac ’n’ cheese is lazy luxury of the highest order. Making a good one in my book involves using lots of cheese, creating a rich and oozy sauce which is enhanced with a little English mustard and smoked paprika, and then cut through with a spot of vinegar. The result is a lightly smoky, peppery and rich cheese sauce with a bright and clean finish. All it then needs is a light breadcrumb topping. Et voila.
This classic family recipe is a real treat, and being as it will warm your cockles good and proper, is great indulged in on chilly autumn and winter evenings. And if you need any more convincing to give it a go, it lends itself perfectly to a bit of pimping — my five fave suggestions for tweaking it are:
- Blue cheese and a brown breadcrumb crispy top with seeds
- Pancetta and tallegio cheese
- Cajun seasoning spiked
- Crispy chorizo and manchego cheese
- Sun-dried tomato and spinach
Whether you choose to make yours classic or pimped, I hope you enjoy cooking and eating it for this months Bake Club challenge — and don’t forget to let me know what you think.
Classic mac ’n’ cheese for four
- 450g macaroni — cooked until al dente and cooled under cold water
- 60g butter
- 8 tbsp plain flour
- 770mls whole milk
- 135g cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (or 1tsp if you want it more smoky)
- 2 tbsp rice / cider vinegar
- Sea salt and black pepper
- A few handfuls of breadcrumbs
- 50g Parmesan, finely grated
- A pinch of fresh chopped chives or spring onions for serving
- Cook the macaroni as per the pack timings, then drain and rinse under cool water. Set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- Heat the milk in a saucepan.
- In a separate, large saucepan, melt the butter on a medium heat and mix in the flour until the mixture comes together (this is the roux), turn the heat to low.
- A ladle at a time add the hot milk mixture to the butter and flour and using a whisk, whisk it together to make sure you have a smooth sauce — do this until all the milk is combined and the sauce is smooth and thick.
- Add the mustard, smoked paprika, cheese and salt and black pepper and continue to cook for around 10 minutes on a low heat (this is to cook out the flavour of the flour) making sure you keep stirring it so it doesn’t catch. Add the vinegar to the sauce and stir through, take of the heat.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix thoroughly to combine.
- Ladle into a baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, give a grind of black pepper, another sprinkle of smoked paprika and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbling and golden, then for the last 5 minutes turn the grill on to brown the top.
- Sprinkle the chives over the top and serve. Preferably with a bottle of red wine.