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    Macaroni Cheese 2

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    Macaroni Cheese 2

    Ideally, for this, you need a 1.25-litre, oven-proof dish. If all you have is a tin roasting tray, line it with two layers of foil that have been sculpted to divide the roasting tray in half. You can vary the ingredients: try using diced peppers, sautéed leeks or even blanched spinach with the pasta. The sauce can be used for cauliflower cheese - just replace the pasta with cauliflower florets that have been lightly cooked in boiling water. It can also be used as a topping for savoury pancakes.

    • Preparation time: 60 minutes
    • Cooking time: 5 minutes to 15 minutes
    • Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes 60 minutes 15 minutes

    Serves: 2

    Ingredients

    • Cheese sauce
    • 425ml milk
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 tbsp (about 20g) butter
    • 2 level tbsp plain flour
    • 115g extra mature farmhouse Cheddar, grated, plus a handful for the topping
    • ½ tsp English mustard powder
    • Salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 115g penne, macaroni or rigatoni pasta
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 6 slices back bacon, diced
    • 6 cup mushrooms or a large handful of button mushrooms
    • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved

    Method

    1. Lightly oil an ovenproof dish (see above). Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Stir once to prevent the pasta from sticking and return to a medium boil. Cook for the time recommended on the packet (probably 10-12 minutes). Once cooked, drain and stir into the sauce.
    2. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking. Put the milk and bay leaf into a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. Let it come up to boiling point without actually boiling, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan over a low heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and gently cook for 3 minutes, stirring regularly. It will turn slightly paler as it cooks. If it starts to turn brown, the heat is too high.
    3. Remove the bay leaf from the milk and add a small amount of warm milk to the flour. Keep stirring until it forms a thick, smooth paste, then repeat the process, gradually increasing the amount of milk until you have a thick smooth sauce. You may need to increase the heat to medium. If it looks lumpy, beat vigorously with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring briskly, then reduce the temperature and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the grated cheese. Once it has melted, season to taste with the mustard powder, salt and pepper. Add the just-cooked pasta. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and fry gently for about 5 minutes until it begins to soften, while you dice the bacon. Add this, and fry for another 4 minutes until the bacon starts to colour. While it's cooking, wash the mushrooms and pat dry before trimming and cutting into chunks. Add to the bacon and fry briskly for 3 minutes. Mix into the pasta cheese mixture with the raw,
    4. Transfer the mixture to the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with more grated cheese and place under a preheated medium-high grill until bubbling and golden - about 5 minutes. If you've made this in advance and chilled it, reheat in a hot oven (200°C/gas 6) for 12-15 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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    Cook's tips

    This is delicious with a green salad.

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