Macaroni Cheese

macaroni cheese

I have a strange relationship with macaroni cheese.  It evokes very fond memories of my big sister and I being left ‘home alone’ whilst ‘the Runtles’ went out.  Usually on a Saturday evening.  Usually for something to eat.

Consequently, we had to make our own tea, and, as a treat, were allowed to open a tin.

*leaves slight pause for the excitement to die down*

So, aside from Tomato Soup, which was an obvious favourite but really had to be left for ‘poorly days’, there was a whole section on the ‘tinned food shelf in the cupboard’ dedicated to Saturday tea food, our favourites of which were tinned Ravioli, tinned Spaghetti Bolognese and tinned Macaroni.

Invariably I plumped for the tinned Macaroni Cheese and would warm it up in the pan, plop it into a bowl, add a spoonful of Branston Pickle, put the bowl and a drink on a tray, and carry it, with an inner glee, into the lounge.

You see not only were we allowed food from a tin, we were also, as a special treat and as long as we kept the food on a tray, allowed to eat our tea in the lounge.  In front of the television.

*another pause to reflect on the absolute giddiness I still feel*

Now I know to many this is now de rigueur.  Indeed it may be said that sitting around the table is now the treat.  But then, as now, I hold very dear, time spent sitting round the table, with all it’s little rituals.  A table tells a story that unfolds through time, both physically and emotionally.

Anyway.  This is where the story takes an unexpected turn.  You see, although the build up was fabulous, the actual eating of said Macaroni Cheese was always a disappointment.  It got very boring, very quickly.  There was just not enough going on to entertain my palette, and inevitably, the slight taste of wallpaper paste would always come to the fore, leaving me dissatisfied and slightly irritated that I had, yet again, plumped for the tin of bland.  To be fair, on reflection they were all pretty disgusting.

As a consequence of this I have never had Macaroni Cheese as one of my ‘go to’ recipes, although I know for many, it is a comfort food extraordinaire.  I don’t think this position for me will ever change, but I have always wanted to rectify my slight apathy at making it.  Having made a few unconvincing attempts, I decided to give Nigella’s recipe a go.

I know what you’re thinking, why did I not try that recipe immediately?  And I’d like to give you an answer, I really would.  But unfortunately I’m not sure why I never tried it before.  Tell you what though, it’s absolutely delicious and most definitely my ‘go to’ macaroni cheese from now on.

So, down to business.  You cook 250g of macaroni.  Meanwhile put 250g of evaporated milk, 250g of grated cheese and 2 eggs into a bowl.  Mix.  Add the cooked macaroni.  Grate some nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste.

Put into a dish and place in the oven, gas mark 7 for approximately 15 minutes.  To be honest it took more like 30 minutes in my oven, but then my oven has a mind of it’s own and is, as we all know, quite temperamental.

The most important thing to remember here is that the macaroni cheese should be spread out over quite a large surface area. Think width, not depth.

We ate it with steamed broccoli, but it would be delicious on it’s own or as part of a big dinner experience.  I believe our friends across the pond eat it as a complement to ham, others put it together with salad.  Whichever way you decide to eat this macaroni cheese, one thing is for certain, you will definitely be making it again.

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Chocolate Banana Muffins

choclate banana muffin

I have, recently, wholehearted adopted the American tradition of eating fresh muffins for breakfast.  To be honest, I’m not even sure it is an American tradition, but America is the country I associate with morning breakfast muffins since the arrival of the sitcom Friends and the coffee shops such as Starbucks and the gang onto our little island, as they do seem to do a rather merry tango with coffee.

Moreover, it feels very decadent to wake up in the morning with so much time on your hands that you can swan into the kitchen with nothing more than a dressing gown on, and rustle up some beautiful muffins.

Make no mistake though, when you see Nigella swan down, glamorously, into her large kitchen, gloriously bedecked in a satin dressing gown, hair perfectly coiffed and make-up beautifully applied, that is not me.

I have more of a pulled through a hedge backwards look, where everything is moving southwards much quicker than expected, except my hair which has made a unilateral decision to venture west.  Or east.  Or sometimes, both.

Nevertheless I rarely look in a mirror first thing in the morning until it is absolutely necessary, and as a consequence, have very successfully managed to convince myself on many an occasion, that I have Nigella glamour.  I’m not sure the postman would agree.

Anyway, this morning, having promised to make muffins for a while to use up the rapidly browning bananas lounging on a hanging affair in our fruit bowl, I set to, bedecked in dressing gown, to make a Nigella recipe.

This is what you will need:

3 very ripe or overripe bananas
125 ml vegetable oil
2 large eggs
100 grams soft light brown sugar
225 grams plain flour
3 tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Mix the wet ingredients together, the dry ingredients together, then combine wet with dry, spoon into muffin cases (12) and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, gas mark 6 or equivalent.

Once cooked, I woke up himself with a cup of tea and a warm muffin.

Him:  Oh

Me:  What?

Him:  I didn’t expect banana

Silence

I wonder if Nigella gets that response?

Blueberry Muffins

photo 2 (1)

I’ve always thought muffins for breakfast was way too American for my liking.  Not that I have anything against American breakfasts at all, but breakfast selection does depend on how you’ve been brought up, and cake for breakfast was just never seen as a good thing in our household.  In fact, it was seriously frowned upon.  However, I have been trying to broaden my culinary horizons for some years now, and decided that today was the day that we would push the boat out and have fresh muffins for breakfast.

I’ve often wondered exactly what the difference between a fairy cake (or cupcake as they are now so often referred to) and a muffin is, as they do taste pretty similar. And for those of you who may also ponder such things, here is my brief synopsis. Muffins are more batter tasting and made with as little mixing as possible, so the dry ingredients are swirled around nonchalantly together, then the wet ingredients are whisked together.  When combined it is recommended that you use a wooden spoon and stir together just enough that the ingredients know each other but aren’t overly familiar.  The blueberries, or whatever takes your fancy, are then added, once again with as little mixing as possible.  The mixture is then plopped into cases and shoved in the oven. No tender smoothing over, no concern about the way it’s plopped into the case. Nothing. Treat ’em mean.  Muffins also never have a topping on them.

Whereas fairy cakes are made by fairies.

So, this morning I had my whole domestic goddess head on and prepared the muffin mixture, distributed in cases accordingly, and popped the tray into the oven for 20 minutes whilst I went to get changed.  Although it is Sunday I had places to be this morning, so timing was crucial.  Having dressed etc, I came down to find the muffins perfectly cooked.  Smugly I presented them to the family who made absolutely the right facial expressions and cooed appropriately.

What I had forgotten of course, is that when you put fruit in cakes, the fruit gets hot. And stays hot for quite a while.

Ah well, they were still delicious, and I’ll know for next time that although warm muffins is a wonderful idea for breakfast I must remember the basic rules of culinary physics.