Tonight’s Supper: Sumptuous Macaroni Cheese with baby leeks

PUBLISHED: 12:12 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:39 01 July 2020

Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni Cheese

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Homemade recipe for Macaroni Cheese and baby leeks

Macaroni CheeseMacaroni Cheese

It is the classic British dish many of us, who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, came to know and love so well, the only pasta alternative being that other household staple Spaghetti Bolognese.

Macaroni Cheese’s history on these shores may well stretch back to the 14th century, but you will more often hear it termed nowadays as Mac + Cheese, a term coined by our cousins over the pond. They stuff it on top of burgers, with chips, deep fry it, all kinds of whacky stuff. Still, I suppose one must move with the times. This version of Macaroni Cheese is a less calorific version of the traditional dish, it is exceptionally versatile and one which needn’t be all carbs and no veg. The brilliance of the sauce is that it is simple to make, delicious and can be put into the service of so many other recipes such as lasagne, potatoes gratin, cauliflower cheese and the list goes on.

INGREDIENTS

Cauliflower CheeseCauliflower Cheese

250g macaroni pasta
300ml light crème fraiche 
200g Gruyere cheese
50ml Cornish double cream
Cornish sea salt
Pepper
Vegetable stock cube
Olive oil
Cornish butter
Four baby leeks

METHOD OF COOKING

Pre-heat your oven on a high setting. Place the vegetable stock cube in a large pan with some Cornish sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil, then pour in a good amount of boiling water and add the macaroni. Cook the pasta until al dente.

In a separate pan pour in the crème fraiche and begin to heat gently. Grate the gruyere and leave some aside if you are going to sprinkle on top of the dish before putting into the oven. Put the rind of the cheese in the pan with the pasta.

Take the gruyere for the sauce and place it in the pan with the crème fraiche add some salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper and keep stirring. When the sauce is warmed through and the cheese has melted add a few tablespoons of the pasta water, stir in thoroughly then add the Cornish double cream.

While cooking the sauce and pasta heat a drizzle of olive and a small pat of butter and melt in a frying pan. Chop the leeks finely and then toss them in pan on a low heat. If the leeks begin to dry out, instead of adding more butter or oil, add a little stock from the pasta pan, or even a splash of white wine and cook the leeks until soft.

When the macaroni is cooked, drain, saving some of the broth, and place into a large oven proof dish. Remember to take out the cheese rind. Next add the cheese sauce and the leeks and mix well together. Now at this point, as long as your pasta is cooked properly, you could serve immediately if you wished, or you could simply place in the oven as is and wait for the sauce to bubble and brown.

Alternatively add a topping of cheese to melt and brown in the oven. You could use some more gruyere, or a good cheddar, some red Leicester, or a mix of both. Add little nuggets of cheesy heaven in the form of gorgonzola or dolce latte. Parmesan is great for a hefty tang, but better still mixed in with breadcrumbs - just whizzed up stale bread.

I’ve suggested leeks in this recipe because they add a mild onion flavour that contrasts well with cheese, as we know from so many recipes. Another classic, of course, is tomatoes. Place some small sweet tomatoes in a bowl, pour in hot water, then carefully peel their skins and add them to the dish. This gives another great balance of flavours through the fresh, zingy spritz of the tomato juice bursting on the palate with that gooey goodness of the cheese sauce.

A store cupboard essential for me is a jar of chargrilled sweet peppers. Take one or two of these vinegary delights, chop and mix in with the pasta to give another sharp and sour contrast to the richness of that unctuous creamy cheese taste.

For the sauce, you could add a teaspoon of some rich Dijon mustard, or some fiery English mustard. Roast a couple of cloves of garlic in their skin, then cut of the tips and squeeze that sweet pulp into the sauce and mix in well. Sprinkle in some chilli flakes for an added kick.

Whatever way you play it, this is a wonderful adult take on that childhood favourite. It is a lighter version of this classic meal, but there is no reason why you can’t bulk it up with different flavours and textures. Recipes are a jumping off point, food is made to be experimented with, so make it your own.

Ewen MacDonald is a regular contributor to Cornwall Life Magazine.

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