Saturday, August 7

Pimp my Mac N Cheese

No doubt I shall regret that title, I can only imagine what google search is throwing up. If this was not quite the site you were looking for, please do stick around, pasta can be very exciting too......

Ok that is probably pushing it slightly, but Friday night is sometimes solo dinner night in our house, and last night it was just me and my mac n cheese. I always feel rather sad when I hear people say “its just me for dinner, so why bother” ? Maybe I am simply stonkingly selfish, but my dinner is at least as important as anyone else's surely? I don’t mean it has to be complicated, or fancy, or even strictly a meal. But it does have to be good, and surely the solo supper is a chance to indulge, with no ones whims to accommodate save your own? Often my supper-for-one may be a steak, cooked juicy and rare, smeared all over with a walnut blue cheese butter from the freezer (blue cheese being one of the few things Mr PK wont eat......) and maybe a salad, decadent, but not especially time consuming to prepare, and easy to portion for one.

However I fancied pasta. Ina Garten made Lobster Mac n Cheese on the fabulous barefootcontessa TV show a few weeks back, it really caught my eye. Could comfort food get more decadent? A real treat when I was a kid staying with my relations in Waiuku was being allowed to have one of those Macaroni Cheese boxes to make up for my supper, cheese powder that you added to milk and butter and stirred through the cooked pasta. I loved it! I tried one a couple of years ago, for old times sake (actually I was trying to remember what the attraction was) and was amazing how bland it was.......disappointing, but what was I expecting?

As the car was being serviced, I caught the train home, which goes no where near a supermarket or food shop anyway, so lobster was out (as if it was ever in .....?!), but bacon I always have. Rummaging around the cheese box I found a little piece of Gruyere, another of Havarti, and another of indeterminate cheddar. I am making a real effort not to throw away food, so little bits of this and that do end up in the fridge, here was a perfect opportunity to use them, a lovely cheesy sauce. Fresh breadcrumbs in the freezer and pasta in my now super organised pantry. Sadly I suffered a weevil attack a few weeks ago, these glass jars are wonderfully weevil proof, plus I can see what I have, no more three different packets of the same thing lurking in different parts of the pantry........I got my jars from arthur holmes, great prices and speedy delivery from Wellington. I'm so sad sometimes I just stand with the doors open and look at how wonderfully orderly it is........should I talk to someone about this?

Anyway, I made my cheese sauce, adding Dijon mustard and using milk which was heated with a bay leaf, seasoning and a slice of onion. It may seem an unnecessary step, but it gives a lovely savoury flavour to your sauce, and after all this was a pimped up version of a classic. Crispy bacon was stirred through the pasta and cheese sauce, and a chopped spring onion added for extra flavour. On top breadcrumbs mixed with cheese, and for a final touch? A drizzle of truffle oil, I thought that was very Ina. Baked for 25 minutes or so, and then served with chopped cherry tomatoes seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, it was utterly delish, comforting, but not bland at all. The Gruyere gives a lovely nutty flavour, and a pleasing stringy melt.The tomatoes were a nice contrast, I don't approve of tomato in Mac N Cheese (sorry Jamie...), but alongside is fine. I had anticipated having the leftovers for lunch today, but Mr Lager came home and hoovered them up, topped with a chipotle sauce and a couple of pickled onions ...........sadly I kid you not.

As I type this I am munching homemade hummus, with some corn tortillas I found in the freezer and fried up. They are from Mexican Specialities and are delish, smelling of corn, so much better than brought corn chips, with all that weird flavour powder stuff on them (don't even get me started on Doritos!). Hummus is so easy to make, and so satisfying, it is worth the fact my breath would down Bill Compton at 50 paces......


Simply take a drained tin of chickpeas and blitz in your blender or food processor with the following:

Two Garlic cloves
Juice of a lemon
2-3 tablespoons of tahini
1/2 cup olive oil

Adjust to suit your tastes, I like plenty of garlic, but feel free to just use one clove. My sister Liz adds a couple of teaspoons of toasted and ground coriander and cumin seeds, which adds a lovely warmth. Another sister Woo puts her hummus on a platter and tops with caramelised onions which have cumin seeds, fresh thyme, pinenuts and olive oil added.......

Dinner tonight is a steak sandwich, made with homemade potato focaccia (see previous post for recipe) which I have added thyme to, will take some pics tonight and post tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you are still awake (thanks!) I have a little thought. I went to the library the other day, the big one in Auckland, and as I was queuing to self serve an Inspector Morse Omnibus (I may be the only person currently reading crime novels that by aren't Stigg Larrson....) my eye was drawn to the new titles shelf. I picked up a book called Brewed, Crude and Tattooed and  brought it home to read (how could you not with a title like that?), and guess what? I am the very first person to get this book out. And I cant tell you how pleased I was when I realized that. Silly I know, but it is like having a present of a new book, except it's free. Don't you love when something really tickles your fancy, and makes you happy, those hidden treats in the day? In the spirit of the small gem, I shall finish with a couple more, how lovely is that blue tin?


  1. Mmm... Baked macaroni. Delicious! I really like the glass jar idea. I am currently using large, clear plastic containers w/airtight lids. I like the glass jars better. This reminds me of how much I need to organise my own store cupboard. Oh, and I just had lunch at Mexican Specialties a couple days ago... ;-)

  2. Sadly I discovered too late my airtight lids were not really airtight! I must get back there, have not had a Beef Taco in too long.....

  3. am super jealous of the pantry, there are little lonely piles of flour and breadcrumbs in mine ... and i love a bit of mac n cheese with crispy fried bacony bits ... mmmmm heart attack ..... mmmmmmm

  4. Yum. I haven't made mac and cheese in a while (too hot here), but I may have to bust one out this week! I like to take some thinly sliced tomatoes and add that under the cheese on top. It's like ketchup, but better!

  5. Ooh that mac n cheese looks good. I also love making hummus from scratch, fresh out of the food processor- so flavorful!!

  6. I did nod my head a LOT when I read this. My son LOVES cheesy pasta and so last week I thought I'd pimp up it up to baked Macaroni cheese - then I got Jamie's book out and yep did the tomato version. Didn't go down well... Then last night after baked macaroni cheese my son asked if next time he could have it without bread crumbs... So we're back to cheesy pasta - just white sauce and grated cheddar!

    And yes I've just beaten off a plague of pantry moths - they must have flown from your house to mine. My 'airtight' cereal containers were not. I have bought shares in sistema's new bakeware but wish I'd know about the Wellington option. A x

  7. I to am a glass jar devote in the pantry ( It just looks right!) Had spent many years collecting vintage jars from markets etc. THEN... on sept 4th down here in Chch we had a bit of a hicup. Needless to say I'm going to have to start collecting all over again!!


I'd love to hear what you have to say, please feel free to comment:)