Have you ever reached into the fridge and pulled out a carton of milk that is perhaps a day past it’s ‘best before’ date, and even though it smells okay you thought you should just pour it down the sink and be done with it? Providing your milk has been stored inside the fridge, and not on the door of the fridge (which is prone to temperature fluctuations), you are probably okay to cook with it.
The only way that I can combat the temptation to eat convenience food during the week is to plan ahead. There are weeks where I hate the planning and organisation; I really rail against the need to be methodical about what we’re going to eat. Then there are weeks where I have it licked.
Do I have it down to a fine art at this stage? Nope!
What I have learned to do is to cook more than 1 meal at a time. In other words I cook double quantities. A meal for now; a meal for another day. The pay off for cooking a family meal is that at another point in the future, I get a reprieve from cooking, with very little effort.
Mac & cheese is one of those dishes that I’m sure plenty of families have tried and tested recipes for. I make mine with a variation on a roux sauce because the sauce is so versatile. I can use it in pies, lasagne, mac & cheese, and much more. That’s the key thing to being organised in the kitchen for me; to be able to adapt whatever I cook to the next meal.
By the way, all the best roux sauces are made with a little bit of nutmeg in my book. It lifts the sauce from lovely to gorgeous I think.
This recipe is one of necessity. It’s the story of a 2 litre carton of milk that has just exceeded its best before date but is grand to cook with. It’s the story of using up a small hunk of cheese in the fridge, and using my stand-by staple vegetables; frozen peas and sweetcorn, to make a family favourite meal. In fact I made enough for 2 dinners, that froze extremely well, and it got me out of two tight spots when it came to dinnertime in the last fortnight.
For the meat-lovers in the family I put some leftover cooked ham on top and added a light sprinkling of grated cheese for good measure before reheating in the oven. If you don’t like meat or are on a meat-free buzz, then skip the meat but maybe go for a little extra cheese for crunch.
[recipe][recipe title=”Mac & Cheese” servings=”12″ time=”1 hour” difficulty=”easy”]
- 50g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 1.5L milk
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 100g finely grated cheese of your choice
- 1kg dried pasta shapes (I used fusilli here)
- 200g frozen sweetcorn
- 200g frozen peas
Put the milk in a jug and heat on high in the microwave for 3 minutes. The idea is to heat the milk up as a roux needs to be made with warm ingredients. It prevents lumps from forming.
Take a large saucepan and place on a medium heat. Put the butter into the saucepan and allow to melt. Pour in the flour. Stir well so that the butter absorbs the flour and you get a paste. Pour in 1/3 of the warm milk and stir vigorously until it is combined with the flour paste. It will thicken, don’t worry. Once you have a thick sauce, pour in another 1/3 of the warm milk and stir again. Allow to come to a simmer. Repeat these steps again with the final 1/3 of warm milk.
Stir in the ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Leave the sauce to simmer gently to allow the flour to cook out. Add the cheese gradually while stirring all the time; if you add the cheese all at once you’ll end up with lumps. Once the cheese is combined, turn off the heat on the saucepan.
Take a second saucepan and cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain the pasta and combine with the cheese sauce.
Worth noting at this point that I didn’t have a saucepan big enough to combine the sauce and pasta together as one. I ended up spooning the ingredients half-half between the two saucepans!
Stir the frozen vegetables into the cheese and pasta sauce.
Spoon the mixture into oven-proof dishes and allow to cool before covering and freezing.[/recipe]
Notes on Cheese
I find that I always end up with a hunk of cheddar in the fridge. Mind you whatever cheese you have to hand to add to the sauce is absolutely grand. If you have a combination of cheeses then by all means add them in. For a creamier sauce try adding a spoon of marscapone to the mixture.