Experimental Sundays: the most indulgent macaroni cheese

Macaroni cheese with salad

It’s a new year and I have a few food-related new years resolutions. The ultimate outcome of all these resolutions is that I eat more, but hey, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

One of these ties in with wanting to cook more. I love being in the kitchen but don’t make time to cook as much as I’d like. This year I’m starting Experimental Sundays. It will be the one day of the week that I will try making something completely new to me, from scratch. On the shortlist I already have pasta, jam, a tarte Tatin, sausages, and beef rendang.

To ease myself into the year slowly, I made an easy but very rich and indulgent macaroni cheese. Mac and cheese is one of those things that might be a staple for some people, particularly if it’s the quick stuff out of a box. However, it’s one of those things that has never really appealed to me, despite my adoration of both pasta and cheese. It just always seemed a bit…simple.

So I thought I’d try making and eating it, combined into the one first time occasion. Be warned that this recipe is super rich, so go easy on it!

Macaroni cheese
Adapted from a recipe from Australian Good Taste magazine
Serves 6

Ingredients
280g (2 cups) dried straight macaroni
150g speck, diced, or prosciutto if preferred
60mls (1/4 cup) olive oil
2 large brown onions, finely chopped
2 tsp caster sugar
60g (3 tbs) butter
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
625mls (2 1/2 cups) milk
300ml thickened cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & ground white pepper, to taste
2 cups grated vintage cheddar
¼ cup grated parmesan
50g (1 cup) fresh breadcrumbs

Step 1
Cook macaroni in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, following packet directions, until al dente. Drain and set aside. It’s better to undercook the pasta since it will continue cooking in the oven.

Step 2
Over a medium heat, add 2 tbs of the olive oil to the frying pan along with the onions and sugar. Cook for a minute while stirring. Add the speck and cook until onions are soft and speck is golden. Remove and set aside.

speck and grated cheese

Step 3
Preheat oven to 200°C. Combine the milk and cream in a jug.

Step 4
Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes or until melted and foaming. Add the flour and stir with a whisk for 1 minute or until the mixture bubbles. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 125mls (1/2 cup) of the milk mixture at a time, whisking constantly between additions to prevent lumps from forming.

Step 5
Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce comes to the boil and thickens. Remove from the heat, add the mustard and cheeses and stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Add the drained macaroni, speck and onions and stir to combine.

Step 6
Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley and remaining olive oil in a medium bowl.

Step 7
Spoon macaroni mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top. Place on a baking tray and bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and edges are bubbling.

Macaroni cheese before and after baking

Buon appetito!

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Chinese new year is just an excuse to eat

This year I was away from my family for Chinese new year.  It’s one of the best holidays of the year in my opinion, just because it’s an excuse to eat seafood and receive red packets from my parents!

red packet chinese new year

My dad cooked up some of my favourite dishes, including sin qua with king prawns, scallops and squid, roasted duck, and Chinese broccoli (gai lan) with abalone.

sin qua king prawns squid scallops

Chinese roast duck

Chinese broccoli gai lan abalone

I hope the Year of the Snake brings all of you good health, fortune and prosperity!

How did you bring in the new year?

It’s a big call to escape the Australian summer willingly, but when it means dry, fluffy powder on the slopes of Japan you don’t have to ask me twice!

It snowed on and off for the 5 days that I was with my mate Ed in Furano, Hokkaido, meaning we had amazing powdery conditions.

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The light and feathery snow here puts Australia’s icy/slushy conditions to absolute shame, particularly when the lift tickets were only $57 a day compared to the $110 rip off at Perisher and Thredbo.

New years eve was spent with a whole lot of Japanese folk in the freezing cold and eating snacks from the market stalls such as steamy ramen noodles, sweet red bean soup, and grilled frankfurters.

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Shivering with strangers in -10C snowy conditions – what a way to kick off 2012!