Mac, cheese, tomatoes

11 Jul 2015

So after my recent decision to teach myself how to cook, and purchasing Mary Berry's Cookery Course as a result, it's time to embark on my first cooking adventure. I settle on Mary's Macaroni Cheese with Cherry Tomato Topping. I figure that a cheese sauce is one of the basics you need to know if you want to say the statement 'I can cook' with any degree of confidence. Plus mac 'n' cheese is an all time favourite of mine (pasta, cheese... what's not to like?) and I'm intrigued by the cherry tomato topping, something I've never come across before.

So, let's begin. I'm standing in my mother's kitchen so luckily I don't need to worry about cooking equipment or the majority of the ingredients, meaning I can crack on immediately.

For Mary's mac 'n' cheese, you will need (serves 3-4): 
30g butter
200g macaroni
30g plain flour
600ml milk
175g mature Chedder cheese, grated (Mary uses 160g chedder and 60g Parmesan but our fridge was lacking in Parmesan on the day in question)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cook the macaroni in a pan of boiling water for about 10 minutes (or according to packet instructions). Drain well and set aside.

So far, so good.

Melt the butter in a large pan.

Yep, all good. Everything going well so far. Can totally do this.

Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat, bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Lower the heat and simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Okay, what?! There was a lot of on-heat-off-heat going on there Mary m'dear. And I'm confused as to when and what I'm supposed to be stirring. I go back, re-read each sentence and try and follow each instruction carefully. However, at the end of that 4-5 minutes, my sauce is neither thick nor smooth. In fact, there appear to be weird lumps floating it... Is this normal? I look around for help but I'm in an empty house with nothing but Mary's smiling face for company. I give the sauce a vigorous stir. Damn! Boiling hot milk splashed onto my hand. Ow ow ow! More ow. Oh god, I can't even cook a cheese sauce. Talk about embarrassing.

Refusing to be deterred, I do a bit more (gentle) stirring (whilst attempting to run the burns under some water) until some of the lumps seem to disappear and accept that that will just have to do.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the cheese (save some for the top), mustard and season with salt and pepper.

Whack in the macaroni.

Spoon it all into a baking dish.

It looks like macaroni cheese! Feeling hopeful, despite the lump/burning incident...

Scatter over the halved cherry tomatoes and reserved cheese. Add extra pepper if you so wish.

 Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

 *Holds breath and doubts skills for 20 minutes*.

TA-DAH!! Is this, can I say it, a success?! Still slightly worried about those lumps but it looks like Mary's picture... Only one way to find out...

 If I do say so myself, this is very tasty *feels momentarily smug*. As a huge traditional mac 'n' cheese fan, I'm normally very suspicious about adding extras, but the cherry tomatoes add a real zing to the flavour. I am definitely going back for seconds, and definitely making this again... which must mean my first venture is a success? Am practically a culinary genius. Apart from the burns.