Deluxe Macaroni Cheese sounds like a contradiction. What makes a student staple a dinner party favourite? Two things for me. The first is using evaporated milk instead of half the milk, the second is adding some parmesan to give a really rich flavour.
The method is the same as for a normal cheese sauce so really, this is just an easy way to add a touch of luxury to an everyday dish.
Christmas for me means a week of catering for family members who come and go at different times. To make it easier for myself I always cook the same dishes. I have a spreadsheet which I update each year with the date and the number of people who will be here so that I know the quantities. No-one has ever commented or complained that they have the same food all the time, they probably haven’t noticed.
On Christmas Eve we always have a gammon and, for the past few years, I’ve been making this deluxe macaroni cheese to go with it. The only vegetables I cook with it are carrots and peas to keep it simple. The macaroni cheese can be made ahead and frozen to reduce the last-minute load, e.g. if you still have to make your Christmas Cake. I’m not usually that organised so I’ll often make it on the day while being fortified with Prosecco by one of the girls.
Macaroni Cheese – deluxe or otherwise – wasn’t something I often cooked for my family. I think it’s because it reminds me of my student days when I made cheese sauce the basis of quite a few meals – macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, eggs mornay (boiled eggs in cheese sauce), anything cheap, bland and inexpensive is easily jazzed up with cheese sauce. When my own children were students they cooked mac & cheese for themselves and asked for it at home, so here we are, full circle, and Deluxe Macaroni Cheese at Christmas.
My other Christmas staples are Cranberry Chicken Casserole and Lasagne. Both chosen because they can be made and frozen. The lasagne only needs peas with it as it’s full of vegetables, and the casserole always feels special and, with some rice and French beans, is a family favourite. For puddings we have Christmas Bundt Cake with some compote – bought or made – as well as a crumble and Black Forest Meringue Pudding. And for lunches, we have quiche with pork pies and cheese. Same every year. Something has to be easy.
Deluxe Macaroni Cheese
- 400 g can evaporated milk
- 600 ml milk, full-cream is best
- 100 g butter
- 100 g plain/all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon strong mustard (5ml)
- ¼ teaspoon Grated nutmeg (1.25ml)
- Salt to taste
- 250 g extra mature Cheddar cheese
- 100 g Parmesan cheese
- 500 g macaroni
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 200°C fan/ gas mark 7/ 425°F
- Mix the milk and evaporated milk, to a total of 1000ml. Heat in a microwave or saucepan to below boiling point
- Grate both cheeses (a coarse grate is okay). Put aside about 50g cheese for the topping
- Heat a large pan of water to cook the macaroni
FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes
- Add about a quarter of the milk and stir well as it all starts to bubble. Once you have a solid mixture add the next quarter litre of milk and repeat until all the milk is used up.If it’s lumpy, use the stick blender to smooth it out
- Add the mustard and nutmeg. Add 300g grated cheese, stirring, and taste as you add salt
- When the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, take off the heat. Put a lid on to stop a skin forming
For the Macaroni Cheese:
- Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water for two minutes less than the packet says. Drain
- If there is room in your pan mix the macaroni and cheese sauce. If not, tip the macaroni into the gratin dish, pour the sauce on top and mix carefully
- Sprinkle over the reserved cheese
- Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the top is browning and the sauce is beginning to bubble
- Leave to stand for about 20 minutes out of the oven before serving.