I think I must be the only person on the face of the planet who managed to reach adulthood without ever eating macaroni cheese. In fact, I'd never eaten macaroni at all until today. This evening seemed like a good time to put that right... after all, when is a good time to oven bake a dish if not during sweltering heat? Ryoma was dubious at first, as he's been exposed to tinned macaroni cheese and, apparently, still has nightmares. But he wolfed down every last bit of his dinner this evening and then eyed up my left-overs whilst licking his lips, so I'd say he'll be having pleasant mac'n'cheese dreams from now on.
I must point out here that it's worth mooching about to get your hands on the baby plum tomatoes (or the larger ones if you can't find them), as they do make a difference to the recipe. The non-plum ones just don't quite measure up - I am a total plum convert. This dish will feed two ravenous sorts, or three moderate munchers.
10½ oz (300 g) macaroni
1 pint (570 ml) milk
1½ oz (40 g) plain flour
1½ oz (40 g) butter
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3½ oz (100 g) Parmesan, grated
3½ oz (100 g) Gruyère, grated
3½ oz (100 g) Stilton, diced
1 rounded tsp Dijon mustard
10½ oz (300 g) baby plum tomatoes
leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme
1 oz (30 g) white breadcrumbs
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Begin by mixing the breadcrumbs with 25g of the Gruyère and a third of the Parmesan. Mix the remainder of the two cheeses with the Stilton and set aside. Next, put the water for the pasta on to boil in a large saucepan. Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.
While you're waiting for the water to boil, put the milk, butter and flour into a medium-sized saucepan and place it onto a low heat. Whisk them together (with a balloon whisk) until the sauce begins to simmer and thicken, then add the garlic, bay leaves and a grating of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and continue stirring while the sauce cooks for a further 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, then add the three-cheese mixture and the mustard and stir in well.
Add the macaroni to the pan of boiling, salted water and cook according to the packet instructions. While it's cooking, chop the tomatoes into halves and give them a good seasoning of salt and pepper.
Once the macaroni is cooked, drain it in a colander and then return it to the pan. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta immediately, add the chopped tomatoes and thyme leaves and stir everything up together.
Butter a deep ovenproof dish and then transfer the macaroni cheese to it (see first photo above). Top with the cheese and breadcrumb mixture (see second photo above), then bake it in the oven, on the middle shelf, for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
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The World Wildlife Fund
Cancer Research UK