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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Recipe for Very Veggie Mac 'n' Cheese


There is something about it, isn't there? Macaroni Cheese I mean. Something about the creaminess, the cheesiness, the warmness, the hominess, the sharing, the crusty, crunchy top. The way you can't wait to eat it and burn your mouth on that first mouthful. The way you always eat a little too much, always more than you planned. And that point brings me to this recipe. For this recipe, I have vamped up the vegetables. There are so many vegetables in this recipe and cooked in different ways to get a maximum punch of flavour, this could be the only Macaroni Cheese you eat that makes you feel healthy (even a bit smug) afterwards. Be careful though, all that feeling goody goody, can lead to second, even third helpings!

Preparation Time: 45 minutes.
Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes (baking in the oven)
Ingredients for 6 to 8 Servings using an oven proof dish of approximately: 25cm / 10in. x 35cm / 14in., depth 5cm / 2in.

For the Vegetables and Pasta

300gr / 10.5oz whole wheat macaroni
2 x tbsp olive oil
I x large cauliflower
1 x large head of broccoli
8 x spring onions (scallions) chopped into lengths of about 2.5cm / 1in.
8 x chicory, chopped roughly
1 x tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
A handful of fresh chives chopped finely
Salt and Pepper
For the Cheese Sauce
4 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
40gr / 1.4oz. plain flour
40gr / 1.4oz. unsalted butter
600ml / 20.5 fl oz. skimmed milk (half fat)
2 x tbsp of Dijon mustard
2 x pinches of nutmeg
100gr / 3.5 oz. strong cheese like mature cheddar or aged Gouda or gruyere, grated
100gr / 3.5 oz. parmesan, grated
Salt to taste
To Finish
75gr / 2.5oz. grated parmesan cheese
4 or 5 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly


To Make For the Vegetables and Pasta
Step 1, 2 and 3 can all be started at the same time
Place the cauliflower and broccoli in a large pan, cover with water from a kettle that has just boiled, add some salt, bring to the boil and cook for about 7 minutes or until the vegetables have become al dente (cooked, but with a little bite, or resistance to the point of a sharp knife). It may be easier to bring your large pan to the boil if you cover it with a close fitting lid.

Drain the vegetables, set aside to steam off a little and then return them to the pan.
At the same time cook the pasta as per instruction on the packet. When cooked, drain it and add it to your cooked vegetables.

Set your oven to heat to 200°C / 400°F. Place the chicory and the spring onions in a roasting tray with the thyme and the olive oil. Mix through the oil with your hands to coat the vegetables and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and taken on some colour.
When your vegetables are ready, both roasted and boiled, mix them together in a pan or bowl with the cooked pasta. Add some salt and pepper and taste as you do so. I find the easiest way to do this is to use my largest pan to cook the broccoli and the cauliflower and add everything to it.

To Make The Cheese Sauce
You can make this as your vegetables are cooking when you get confident with this recipe.
Melt the butter on a medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Not a non-stick pan.
Add the garlic and let it cook for about 2 minutes until it softens a little. Try not to let it brown as it will affect the colour of your dish.
Add the flour and mix it into the butter using a metal whisk. The flour will take up all the butter and turn into a blob, almost like dough.
Add about 1/3 of the milk and whisk vigorously. It will be a bit lumpy at first, but don't worry, it will become smooth if you keep whisking.

Then add the next third of the milk and whisk through until it becomes smooth and then the last third. Leave it to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring your smooth sauce with a wooden spoon.
Turn the heat to medium and add the mustard and nutmeg, stir through until incorporated.
Add the cheese and allow it to melt into your sauce. Check for taste, and add some salt, be careful as the cheese and the mustard already contains salt. Your sauce will need a little bit of salt though as this will bring the flavours together. Remember that the flavour of the sauce should be quite strong as it has to go a long way to cover all those vegetables and the pasta.

To Bake and Finish
Add your cheese sauce to the vegetable and pasta mix, stir everything through and check for seasoning.
Pour the mix into your oven proof dish and spread it out.
Sprinkle with half of the parmesan. Lay out your tomatoes over the top, evenly. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese. Cover with aluminium foil.
Place your dish in the oven (which should still be at 200°C / 400°F) and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the top is crispy with the melted cheese.

Tips and Variations
If you decide to make this dish in advance and bake it the next day for example, remember that it will need more time in the oven as it is being heated from cold. Baking time will take about an hour or maybe a little more.

You can of course use all sorts of vegetables, I like to add lots of green beans to the broccoli and cauliflower.
This dish keeps for a few days in the fridge and it also great eaten cold with a simple green salad.
If you enjoyed this recipe, check out the cooking coach website for more
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