Thursday, 12 May 2011

Jamie's Killer Mac and Cheese - Lobster Scented

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Soft and unctuous and filling, it makes coming home late at night all the more welcoming. Kick your shoes off and leave your worries by the door, mac and cheese is here to make everything okay.

And you can play with it. Not at the table mind you, but in the kitchen. There are as many ways to make a good mac and cheese as there are cooks out there. I prefer the bechamel-style. A thick, saucy pasta that stays soft and creamy even as leftovers. And we are all about the leftovers here.

One thing I had leftover was lobster shells. How does that happen? I was surprised with lobsters on Mother's Day morning. I ate a lobster, steamed. And about a quarter cup of butter. And a few hundred bellinis. Life was good. But I wouldn't let anyone throw the shells in the compost bin just yet. I knew that most of the flavour was in that armour. So the next day I put the shells in the smaller slow cooker with one bag of homo milk. (That's about 1.3 quarts of whole milk, to my American friends). I put that baby on high and let it steep for a couple of hours. Strain, and I now had lobster-scented milk. Cool. Perfect for a bechamel. Perfect for a mac and cheese.

And so we made Mac and Cheese, a Jamie Oliver recipe that suited what I wanted to do. I used my already-flavoured-milk and so skipped his aromatics, but kept the bechamel-pasta-cheeses, etc. the same. And that crunchy top - love that crunchy top!

This is a great all-around mac and cheese recipe that you can play with to suit your cravings. Enjoy!

‘Mac ’n’ cheese’ is a classic American pasta dish – everyone loves it. Sometimes it’s done so badly in the convenience area, it’s almost become famous for being horrible, but when you do it properly, trust me, it’s an absolute killer. Feel free to use any tubular pasta you want. I’ve made this dish my own by lightening it with sweet tomatoes and giving it some crunch with delicious breadcrumbs. Just you wait till you try it!

This dish isn’t going to win any prizes in the nutrition department, but you can, and should, balance it with a nice salad. If you only have it once in a while as a special treat, it’ll do you no harm. - Jamie Oliver

Killer Mac and Cheese
Jamie Oliver,
for IHCC Plenty'o'Pasta


• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 45g butter
• 3 heaped tablespoons plain flour
• 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 6 fresh bay leaves
• 1 litre semi-skimmed milk
• 600g dried macaroni
• 8 tomatoes
• 150g freshly grated Cheddar cheese
• 100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
optional: a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce
• optional: a grating of nutmeg
• 3 big handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
• olive oil


Get a large pan of salted water on the boil. Melt the butter in a large ovenproof saucepan over a low heat, then add the flour and turn the heat up to medium, stirring all the time, until you get a paste – this is your roux. Add all the sliced garlic – don’t worry about the amount because each slice will caramelise like toffee in the roux. Keep cooking and stirring until golden and the garlic is nice and sticky. Add the bay leaves and slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time to ensure you get a nice smooth sauce. Bring the mixture to the boil, then leave it on a low heat to simmer and tick away, stirring occasionally. Preheat your oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7.

Add the pasta to the pan of boiling salted water and cook according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes on a board and season them well with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the sauce. Give it a good stir and take the pan off the heat. Stir in your grated cheeses, chopped tomatoes and thyme leaves. A little Worcestershire sauce added now is nice, and so is a little grating or two of nutmeg. Now work on the flavour – taste it and season it until it’s hitting the right spot. You want it to be slightly too wet because it will thicken up again in the oven, so add a splash of water if needed.

If you’ve made your sauce in an ovenproof casserole-type pan, leave everything in there; if not, transfer it to a deep earthenware dish. Bake it for 30 minutes in the oven, until golden, bubbling, crispy and delicious.

While it’s cooking, put your breadcrumbs and thyme into a pan with a few drizzles of olive oil over a medium heat. Stir and toss the crumbs around until crunchy and golden all over. Remove from the heat and tip into a nice bowl. Serve your macaroni cheese in the centre of the table, with your bowl of crispy breadcrumbs for sprinkling over, and a lovely green salad.

Wine suggestion:
dry Italian white – a good Pinot Grigio