I love comfort food. If food could hug, this would be that kind of food. It makes you feel warm and cosy and comfortable, outside and inside.
During these times when we can’t really meet up and have to stay in our own little bubble, keep to ourselves, it helps to eat food that makes us feel that way.
I have been thinking about these kinds of food and came up with a few lists in my head. These include mashed potatoes, bobotie, spaghetti bolognese, thick pancakes covered in syrup and bacon, soup with fresh bread and cheese; but I suppose the one that I always go back to is macaroni cheese. Macaroni Cheese in a decadent and delicious white cheese sauce. I remember my mom making this when I was a child and it was always one of my favourites. The plate would be licked clean!
So when we arrived in Ireland in 2001 and I couldn’t find macaroni pieces in the pasta isle of any of the big grocery shops here, I wasn’t very happy, to say the least. Something similar like ‘penne’, I could find, but not macaroni. I remember a Dutch friend who also lives in Ireland, saying that she would always stock up on macaroni when she visited home. Well, I had no such luxury with South Africa being a bit further away than the Netherlands! Anyway, it was a joyous occasion when I found macaroni in Tesco some years later.
The first Rachel Allen recipe book I ever owned, was this one.
She has a delicious recipe for Macaroni Cheese. I think the Dijon mustard just adds that little bit extra to the cheese sauce. Try for yourself.
Recipe: Macaroni Cheese
75 g butter
1 onion peeled and chopped
75g plain flour
900ml boiling milk
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
225g cheese (Cheddar or even better, half Cheddar and half Gruyėre), grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g macaroni pasta
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the chopped onions and cook gently until soft.
- Stir in the flour and cook for a minute, then gradually add the milk, whisking all the time, and the mustard.
- Whisk in three-quarters of the cheese and allow to melt into the sauce, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Together with pasta:
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water with a teaspoon of salt, until just soft.
- Drain, then toss into the cheese sauce and transfer into a gratin dish, about 25cm square.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pop under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the cheese on top, or if you wish, put this aside for later.
- To reheat, put the dish into an oven preheated to 200˚C (400˚F or gas mark 6) for about 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
You can also add small pieces of cooked ham or bacon to the sauce. For a nutty flavour I usually grate some whole nut over the dish before putting it in the oven.