Recipe: Beer’n’Bacon One Pan Mac’n’Cheese

A few weeks ago I was asked what I would choose my final meal to be. I didn’t hesitate; W’s cheesy pasta bake, made with frankfurters and bacon. I’ve posted the recipe before; it’s a rich, comforting dish that requires a lie-down after eating. And it’s utterly delicious. It hasn’t, however, stopped me making virtually ever new mac’n’cheese recipe I come across.

 photo Beer MacnCheese_zpsxhe0gorz.jpgI’ve done a One-Pan version, a Healthy Twist, one to use up a Leftover Cheeseboard. This one is a new favourite. Based on the BBC GoodFood recipe, we found the original version wasn’t quite cheesy enough, was a bit watery, the cooking times were way off and it lacked bacon. Our version is majorly cheesy, with a thick sauce and dotted with salty bacon. It’s definitely richer, but the beer element cuts through the cheese and adds a lightness which works well. Surprisingly well.

The ale adds a sweetness, but also a sharpness. This particular one was also a little citrussy. It feels as though it shouldn’t work, but it does. With a huge amount of cheese in the sauce it needs the beer to prevent it being too heavy. It makes the sauce smooth and creamy, without being overly rich. The bacon adds a salty crunch, though of course could be left out for a veggie option. Most of all, though, this is just a delicious meal. Well worth it!

 photo Beer MacnCheese2_zpso7mme39g.jpg photo Beer MacnCheese6_zpsmfk3k6el.jpgIngredients – Served 2 as a side to Fried Chicken

  • 2 rashers bacon
  • 35g butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml pale ale – we used Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club, which I actually really enjoyed as a shandy alongside dinner!
  • 120g macaroni
  • 100g cheddar, grated
  • 100g mozzarella, grated

Melt the butter over a low heat with the garlic, and slowly cook until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Pour in the milk and beer and bring to a gentle bubble. Add the pasta and stir occasionally for around 10 mins until the pasta is cooked and covered in sauce. As it is cooking, grill the bacon until crispy, then leave to cool slightly.

Remove the pasta from the heat and stir in the bacon (torn into bitesize pieces), spinach, most of the cheddar (leave around 25g) and half the mozzarella until melted. Sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top and pop until the grill under golden and slightly crispy.

 photo Beer MacnCheese8_zpscqfwzpxc.jpg photo Beer MacnCheese10_zpsehs9ptd1.jpgEnjoy with plenty of salad, some fried chicken, and the rest of the beer. Ideal for a Friday night treat – this slightly lighter version will definitely be my summer mac’n’cheese recipe of choice!

Are you a mac’n’cheese fan? What would be your last meal?

Review: Burgers & Cocktails, Brighton

Seriously, could there be a more perfect combination? Other than perhaps “tea & cake” I think not!

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 5_zpsxez9ugj2.jpgWhilst wandering the North Laines of Brighton we stumbled upon Burgers & Cocktails (part of the Giraffe group). Drawn in by mention of two of my favourite things, we clocked the tummy-rumble-inducing menu, spied the student discount sign and our evening meal was sorted. We strolled up just before 7 to find it virtually empty; a sign that ususally puts us off, but we pererved as I really wanted a good burger. I’m glad we did. A good burger I definitely got.

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 1_zpsupvfjljp.jpgStarting with Mojitos (my cocktail of choice, sweet, sharp, strong and yum), we deliberated over burgers and combos of sides for far longer than socially acceptable. Burgers are a serious business, you guys! W eventually went for the Green Chilli Popper Burger, described as a little on the hot side. With a beef patty, green chilli relish, cream cheese stuffed jalapeño poppers & fondue raclette cheese this wasn’t a small burger! We were initially disappointed at the flat ‘McDonalds’ style patties, however it really worked well in both of our burgers. They were definitely good quality despite the thinness, with a good beef flavour coming through – and there’s no way you could eat these with a thick patty!

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 3_zpswh5asdg3.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 4_zpszyta5fwn.jpgFor me, there was only one real choice (though I did have a little food envy at the sight of the fondue raclette cheese!) – the Mac Mountain. A self-confessed mac’n’cheese addict, this one had had my mouth watering all afternoon. Allergy info checked, thanks to our fab waiter who said it had “red bits” he needed to check weren’t tomato, I was soon tucking into “beef patty topped with mac ‘n’ cheese, special sauce, smoky relish, lettuce & pickles” minus the sauce, relish and pickles, plus two rashers of bacon. Because everything needs more bacon. This was perfect, pure carbs-on-carbs indulgence. The bacon was perfectly cooked, crispy without being dry and brittle. The brioche bun squished well around the filling.

The mac’n’cheese deserves a special mention. Spiced up with jalapeño and chilli (the aforementioned red bits) this was lighter than expected, but still wonderfully cheesy and rich. The side portion W ordered came crisp with breadcrumbs, my portion tasted wonderful in my burger.

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 2_zpsa5og87zm.jpgAs I was already on double-carbs, I avoided fries on the side. Not for the salad option (we were on holiday) – I demolished a portion of the best onion rings I’ve had the pleasure of eating. I’m a huge fan of them, but they can often be lacking onion flavour, watery, soggy, greasy or (ultimate crime) breadcrumbed. These were great – properly oniony, crisp, a light batter and they stayed crunchy right until the end of the bowl. I’d go back for these alone.

And because we had been greedy enough, we went for Hard Shakes instead of a dessert. I know, we deserve a medal…

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 7_zps4nsnlzvm.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 6_zpsfelerkxz.jpgI highly recommend saving room for these! W’s “Chocolate Monkey” (banana shake, chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate liqueur & vodka, whipped cream & vanilla ice cream) was a little banana-y for my taste. However my “It’s Not Terry’s It’s Ours” was divine. Triple sec, crème de cacao, delicious brownie pieces, whipped cream & vanilla ice cream made for an amazingly thick shake, chocolatey, orangey and a massive alcoholic kick.

So if you’re in Brighton and in need of a burger, this place is great. Don’t come expect gourmet burgers, mediumly pink. Expect filthy burgers (don’t come on a first date), massive toppings, and a need to lie-down afterwards…

Where’s the best burger you’ve ever had?

 

Recipe: Microwave Mac’n’Cheese in a Mug

It’s no secret that I love Mac’n’Cheese, but my ultimate recipe really is quite a lot of faff. Two pans (one for pasta, one for sauce), a baking dish, grilling – it all adds up to an awful lot of washing up for what is supposed to be a simple and comforting dish. Worth it, but sometimes I need a quick fix. I’ve been playing about with single-serving microwave mac’n’cheese recipes for agessss now. And here’s the result.

 photo Microwave Mac and Cheese in a Mug 4_zpsfdqb9m2t.jpgCreamy sauce, heavy on the cheese, soft pasta, and only a little washing up. And it’s ready in about 8 minutes. I’ve found it to be perfect for lunches, or even just a quick snack.

Now, it took me a while to get the hang of this and then, when I had, we went and got a new microwave and all my practised timings went out of the window. So it’s worth playing around with if it doesn’t work first time. I would also recommend sticking to actual macaroni shapes as opposed to anything bigger, otherwise it won’t quite be covered by the liquid. Even if it doesn’t quite work, the results are pretty yummy – this has been quite a calorific recipe journey!

 photo Microwave Mac and Cheese in a Mug 1_zpskuianp4j.jpgIngredients

  • 50g macaroni shapes
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 50g cheddar
  • 1 pinch of cornflour (you only want a tiny amount)

Tip the pasta into a microwaveable mug, and add 60g of cold water. Microwave for 90 seconds, stir and microwave for another two minutes (stirring every thirty seconds, adding more water if necessary. After this time your pasta should be cooked.

Meanwhile finely grate the cheddar. Sprinkle over the cornflour and toss so that the cornflour is equally distributed amongst the cheddar. Add the milk to the pasta, followed by the cheese and stir well. Microwave for another 30 seconds and give it a final stir – everything should be cooked, hot, creamy and melted. Season with a little salt and pepper (I also add in a bit of a kick with some mustard).

 photo Microwave Mac and Cheese in a Mug 2_zpsnts9zzyq.jpgEnjoy whilst curled up on the sofa with a good book. Or whilst trying to get your head around statistical testing… (this recipe has been my finest form of procrastination yet!).

Have you ever made a microwaveable meal? What’s your go-to Mac’n’Cheese recipe?

Recipe: How to Make THE BEST Mac’n’Cheese

Macaroni Cheese has to be one of my favourite meals. Soft pasta, a creamy and smooth sauce, strong and tangy cheese – what’s not to love?! Other than the fact that I WILL be the size of a house if I ate it as much as I wanted to…

 photo 8b32b1cf-96c8-44aa-b7a7-a8f32da5e195_zps9p8uyx5h.jpg photo 66829a1c-2975-465f-a0b9-1f1073be6161_zpsjo2fxags.jpgOkay, so it might not be the healthiest thing in the world, but you know those days where you come home, it’s cold, and you need a hug and comfort food to put things right? Mac’n’Cheese is my quick-fix for nights like that.

But Mac’n’Cheese can be quite a subjective thing. I like mine made with a mix of cheddar and Parmesan, many sneer at my addition of the latter. I much prefer to use proper Macaroni, my boyfriend invariably uses Fusilli. I think bacon only improves things, and frankfurters are a wonderful addition, purists would be in uproar. I love mine topped with breadcrumbs and grilled until crispy, Will just grills with extra cheese, many eat it ungrilled. I like my sauce super thick, some recipes produce lots of runny sauce. I could go on and on.

 photo 4fb9dacd-00b9-4020-ab50-d1deb97658db_zpsb7644b64.jpgI’ve made a healthier Mac’n’Cheese with creme-fraiche. It definitely hits the spot, causes significantly less washing up – but that sauce is definitely lacking something. It’s not as thick, not as decadent, and it doesn’t hug the pasta quite right. Still yummy, but it’s not a cuddle on a plate.

Going the other way, if you want to make your bechamel sauce extra thick, tasty and cheesy? Add a spoon of cottage cheese in there. I did this in the summer and whilst I almost put myself into a food coma (I made far too much. And ate it all.) it was damn delicious. Try it and see.

Photo courtesy of The Londoner who wrote the original recipe mine is based on. I cooked the recipe way before getting my camera and I’m not keen on re-promoting my old photography skills…

Going down the “I’m-a-student-who-hates-washing-up” route, One Pan Mac’n’Cheese is definitely the way to go. The pasta is slowly simmered with a mixture of water and milk, with cheese being added at the end to create the sauce. It can end up a little thin, but it’s just the thing for a super-quick dinner, or even a lunch (shhh!).

 photo dfb33f74-09ec-452f-b9c0-7423321c5085_zpshxfu85aa.jpgThen there’s the time I added a vegetable to my Mac’n’Cheese. The cauliflower version wasn’t bad exactly, I’m just not the biggest love of cauliflower. And it completely interfered with the soft texture of the rest of the dish. The bacon saved it, I ate it, I’d make it again if I had cauliflower to use up (unlikely). But pure pasta is definitely the way to go.

Let’s not forget my determination to create Mac’n’Cheese, in a mug, in a microwave. I’ve finally cracked the recipe, now I just need to make it again (such a hard life!) and photograph it all!

So, my best mac’n’cheese? For me, the perfect Mac is made with macaroni, has a thick cheesy sauce, tangy with a little mustard, dotted with bacon, topped with cheesy breadcrumbs and blasted under the grill until crispy. My go-to cheesy sauce recipe is this one – the one used in the meal my boyfriend seduced me with.

In fact, if I could eat his Mac’n’Cheese every night I probably would!

Are you a fan of Mac’n’Cheese? What’s your go-to recipe?

Recipe: Boyfriend’s Cheesy Pasta Bake

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgThere’s a running joke that my future children will all be fat, and there’s a very good reason for this. My boyfriend is an amazing cook, in fact our mutual love of baking and cooking was one of the things we bonded over nearly four years ago. He likes to think he is better than me, and whilst sometimes he probably is I’ll always deny it. Neither of us are particularly intrigued by the healthy craze that seems to be taking the food blogging world by storm at the moment (cashew vegan “cheese” anyone?) and so today I bring you one of the most unhealthiest things I eat. Comfort food at its finest, and a recipe we both plan to be sure to teach our children to make as soon as they are tall enough to use the hob. And no vegan fake cheese in sight…

This cheesy pasta bake is rich, it’s filling, it’s hearty. I can rarely finish my portion (no matter how good we try to be, we always make too much). Its so, so cheesy, a teeny bit spicy, with good texture coming from both the grill and the meat. Its just utter perfection, and I can still remember the first time my boyfriend made it for me early on in our relationship. And I am not ashamed to admit that, on more than one occasion, he has offered to cook me a romantic meal and I have requested this.

Ingredients – for two greedy people

  •  Meat – we usually go for bacon and frankfurters.
  • Cheese – lots of it. At least two big handfuls of a strong mature cheddar. You could get posh and mix up your cheeses, but we rarely do.
  • 80g of pasta each – cooked and ran under a cold tap to cool.
  • Around 50g butter.
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour.
  • 500ml-ish of milk.
  • Seasoning – salt, plenty of black pepper, and some spicy (Cajun is particularly good here).

How to make my boy’s signature dish…

CheesePastaBake3 photo 2014-04-16194826_zpsc41b5099.jpgCheesyPastaBake4 photo 2014-04-16195144_zpsdeaff155.jpgCheesyPastaBake10 photo 2014-04-16195607_zps1f38ac81.jpgPrepare the meat. Dice the bacon, slice the frankfurters and fry in a little oil/butter until crisp. Add the spices (Cajun, not salt and pepper) to the meat just before it’s done, then mix this with the cooked and cooled pasta, and put into a baking dish.

CheesyPastaBake1 photo 2014-04-16194630_zps10a5533d.jpgCheesyPastaBake7 photo 2014-04-16195500_zps8fbc19ce.jpgGrate the cheese. When you think you have grated enough, grate some more. You’ll nibble at it whilst you make the sauce!

CheesyPastaBake5 photo 2014-04-16195420_zpsaba020d3.jpgCheesyPastaBake6 photo 2014-04-16195451_zps45e102a7.jpgCheesyPastaBake8 photo 2014-04-16195555_zps79bcdda2.jpgCheesyPastaBake9 photo 2014-04-16195557_zpsd31e8b1b.jpgCheesyPastaBake11 photo 2014-04-16195639_zps1a16ad73.jpgNow it’s onto the sauce. So many people shy away from make a classic white sauce in favour of the all-in-one method, but I’ve found that never tastes quite as good…Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it starts to foam, tip in the flour and stir continuously until golden brown. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and gradually add the milk in stages, stirring continuously. When all the milk is added season with salt and pepper, turn the heat up and stir continuously until thickened. Add the cheese and continue stirring. Then pour over the pasta/meat mixture. Use a fork to make sure all of the pasta is covered, top with some extra cheese (slices work best here) and grill for around 5-10 minutes until bubbling and slightly crispy.

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgLet cool slightly, then serve up. As a small concession to the health-police – eat this with a salad. Its especially good with fridge-cold red peppers and crunchy lettuce. This is my all-time favourite, the meal I would request as my ‘last meal’ if I could.

What’s your absolute favourite meal?