Growing up, macaroni cheese was one of my favourite dishes to eat. This recipe will teach you to make a ‘roux’ (a base for a sauce using flour and butter), something that all chefs learn. When you add the flour to the melted butter, you may think something has gone wrong when you see the gloop form at the bottom of the pan, but just keep whisking and be confident! This is a lovely family meal that I like to serve with plenty of vegetables. If there are lots of you or you’re really hungry, just double the ingredients listed below.
175g (6¼oz) dried macaroni
20g (1½ tablespoons) butter
20g (2⅓ tablespoons) plain(all-purpose) flour
350ml (1½ cups) milk
1 teaspoon English mustard
100g (generous 1 packed cup) grated cheese (strong Cheddar tastes great, but you can use your favourite)
4 slices of ham
4 tablespoons dried white breadcrumbs (use golden if that’s what you’ve got in the cupboard)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper
1 Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
2 Place a large saucepan of water over a medium heat. When it is boiling, add a pinch of salt and the macaroni, then cook until the pasta has a slight ‘bite’ to it, otherwise known as ‘al dente’ (this will take 10 minutes). Tip into a colander to drain.
3 While your macaroni is cooking, let’s make the sauce.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat then add the flour, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk
or wooden spoon. Mix to a smooth paste and keep stirring for a minute or so to cook the flour.
4 Keeping the heat low, start adding the milk little by little and whisking/stirring constantly. As the milk is added you will start to see it form a lovely sauce, thickening up after each addition. Once you’ve added all the milk, increase the heat to medium, add the mustard and stir until the sauce starts to bubble. Remove the sauce from the heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add most of the cheese, keeping 4 tablespoons aside for the top. Stir the sauce until the cheese has melted.
5 Tip the drained macaroni into the sauce. Roughly chop the ham into small pieces and add this to the sauce too. Mix everything together then tip the mixture into an ovenproof dish, about 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.
6 In a medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, dried herbs and remaining cheese with a spoon. Sprinkle this all over the cheesy macaroni then pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
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