Once the weather gets cooler I become a real sucker for pasta. It would definitely be my carb of choice. I have to be pretty strict with myself and only buy whole wheat versions and limit my self to eating it every now and then.
But sometimes you just have to give in to the call of comfort food and at those times there’s no point in doing things by half measures. If I’m going to indulge I’m going all in!
I do like to think that with this recipe I’m at least getting a bit of fruit and veg along with all that glorious cheese.
Macaroni and cheese is such an American classic too and now that I’m living back in England I am (ironically) missing some of the flavours of my temporary home. I don’t think that I ever ate in a restaurant in the US that had mac and cheese on the menu where I didn’t order it!
300g (dried weight) macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
1 medium leek
2-3 ripe figs
25g butter, plus a little extra for frying
25g plain flour
200g grated strong cheese (I used Gruyère and mature cheddar)
250ml whole milk
1 tbsp creme fraiche
¼ tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c.
Slice the leek and cut the figs into eighths. Gently saute these in a little butter over a medium heat until they start to caramalise a little and then put them to one side.
Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and then tip in the flour. Stir it together and then ‘cook’ it for a minute or so over a low heat. Keep the light low and add the milk, a little at a time, stirring or whisking continuously to give a silky smooth bechamel sauce.
Add about ¾ of the cheese and let it melt into the sauce and then follow this with the crème fraiche. Stir in the mustard powder and season it to taste with a little salt and pepper.
Once the sauce has thickened you can fold in the leeks, figs and cooked macaroni. Tip everything into a baking dish and then scatter the remaining cheese, breadcrumbs and thyme over the top. Bake for around 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling a little and the top is irresistibly golden and crunchy.