Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Merry Christmas - Mac & Cheese and Holy Fuck Hot Sauce

Christmas. It would be a bit weird not to write about Christmas food towards the end of December.  Food glorious food is, after all, up there with all the greats.  There are of course the classics we associate with the Yuletide: Christmas pudding, mince pies, sprouts and the turkey to name a few. Most of these aren’t even particularly liked.  There are also the Christmas foods and rituals that become traditions within a family and embedded in our association with holiday.  Not really allowed crisps or sweets at other times of the year, at Christmas our kitchen table had a bursting biscuit tin, bowls of crisps (albeit additive-free Kettle chips) and full condiment range including ….ketchup.  Contraband such as processed ham, coke and ice-cream.  Sausage rolls on Christmas Eve instead of dinner.

The food is more about the sheer abundance of it than it is about the The Lunch and The Mince Pie.  A feast of plenty that sticks two fingers up to the cold, soggy and sheer dullness of winter.  Christmas is sanctioned hedonism. Eat, drink and be merry. Oh, alright then. 

However, time off work and a bursting fridge of luxury snack food results constant grazing and a not insignificant amount of indulgence related malaise.  Never quite feeling hungry as the moment you feel a bit of room its back to the crisp bowl again…

If you can hold off from the snacking long enough to be properly interested in dinner, this macaroni and cheese is worth it.  Not traditional Christmas food but pretty special and it was a strangely appropriate thing to carry one of Alex’s Christmas presents  - Holy Fuck Hot Sauce ordered online from The Ribman.  Baby Jesus’ Birthday that sauce is good. Blindingly hot, flavourful rather than merely painful, slightly sweet and fruity. The crispy cheese and bread-crumb topping crunches when served to release the oozing cheese sauce only just holding together the nuggets of macaroni pasta.  It is rich and comforting with the hot sauce cutting through the cream and zinging the pasta-bake into another level of good.

The hot-sauce is also great with smoked salmon, cheddar cheese crackers, crisps and pretty much anything you can think of. I even reckon a dab on a mince-pie would be amazing.

I make my macaroni and cheese by judgement rather than measurements but this recipe is the quantities I used on Boxing Day.

To buy your very own Holy Fuck Hot Sauce go here

Macaroni & Cheese - serves 3 

Dried macaroni for three people- about half a pack from the supermarket
pint of milk
250 -300 g mature cheddar grated (or three massive handfuls)
1 clove garlic crushed
3 tablespoons flour
Tablespoon of English mustard
salt and white pepper
olive oil
large nob of butter
4 or 5 small shallots or one white onion  diced very finely 
small handful of breadcrumbs

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and heat a deep frying pan to medium heat, then add a slug of olive oil and the butter. Put a saucepan of boiling and salted water on another hob and add the macaroni.
2) Add the diced shallots to the pan stir and gently fry until they turn translucent and soft - 5 to 10 minutes. Add the crushed garlic about 2 minutes before the onions are done. 
3) Add a bit more butter to the onions and garlic then the flour.  Using a whisk, mix it thoroughly until the butter and flour are well combined.  Add a small glug of milk, whisk briskly till combined, then a bit more milk, repeat until all the milk is in the  frying pan.
4) The mixture will look pretty runny but don't worry. Turn up the heat and continue to stir until it comes to a gentle simmer and thickens to the consistency of thick double cream.  Add the cheese in handfuls until its melted (leave small handful of cheese for the topping).
5) Season generously with salt and white pepper, mix in the mustard and a couple of gratings of nutmeg.
6) The pasta should be cooked by now - it should be a bit underdone and have a bite to it.  Drain the pasta and add to the cheese mixture then pour into a buttered baking tray. 
7) Mix the remaining grated cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top.
8) Put in oven and leave for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy looking. 
9) Serve with watercress and hot sauce.

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