Monday, March 11, 2013

The best for last?

Everyone who hears about my Edmonds Challenge tells me their favourite recipes. It's always interesting to hear which ones people like and don't like, and wouldn't you know it? The same recipes come up time and time again.

By far the most commonly-mentioned recipe is macaroni cheese (p101). I had so many people asking if I'd done it yet, that I impishly decided, very early on, that I would leave this one till last. I'm probably the only one who will find it amusing, but I always enjoyed the fact that there was one Edmonds recipe most people were familiar with that I'd never attempted.

That's right: I've never made macaroni cheese before tonight. It's just not a dish that ever appealed to me much, but after hearing so much about how easy and versatile it is, I've been looking forward to trying it.

I cooked up some macaroni before starting on the sauce, preparing the rest of the ingredients while I waited. Once the pasta was cooked and drained, I made a start on the sauce, cooking onion in butter until clear. Then, using the now-familiar white sauce method, I stirred in flour, adding mustard powder as well. Next, I began gradually adding milk, stirring as the floury mixture slowly became a sauce.

When the sauce boiled and thickened, I took it off the heat and added seasoning. Seasoning is vital in any kind of white sauce mixture, or you've got something revoltingly bland on your hands. When I was happy with the seasoning, I turned to the main addition - cheese!

I'd grated a couple of cups' worth of cheese, and threw about half of it into the sauce. There's a optional suggestion of adding ham or bacon, so I'd got a couple of ham steaks at the supermarket on my way home. This turned out to be far too much (one would have been plenty) and I ended up not putting all of it in.

Finally, I stirred in the cooked macaroni, and transferred it all into the dish. I grabbed the remaining cheese, which was still sitting inside the grater, to scatter on top. I soon saw that I'd underestimated when I thought I'd put half in the sauce. There was much more left than there should have been. I scattered it on anyway and put it in the oven.

It was apparent when I took the dish out 20 minutes later that I really did have too much cheese on top - it had only partially melted, and wasn't close to looking 'golden' like the description in the recipe. I gave it a few more minutes, and finally resorted to turning on the grill for a minute or two to get a nice golden colour.

Now I've tasted the famous Edmonds macaroni cheese, I can understand why everyone seems to like it. It's nothing fancy, just cheesy, moreish comfort food. There's not enough vege in the standard recipe to make a full meal (I had mine with salad) but I can see how you could easily bung in leftovers or whatever you had lying around. I was actually quite tempted to grate in some of my endless supply of courgette, but figured I'd better stick to the recipe - this time at least.

So it's a good feed, but is it the best recipe? I wouldn't say so - not that I can really identify a single stand-out recipe, anyway. There's so many great ones in there, and after 576 recipes, and three years of cooking, selecting one favourite, or even a top ten, is too much of an ask. Of course, I do have some last things to say and recommendations to make. That's a job for tomorrow - and a big job, at that!


  1. This is the unfortunate recipe that put me off Mac n cheese for a VERY long time... Dad had served it up, I'd eaten half of it, and then I needed to be sick from a completely unrelated viral infection. My poor 7 year old brain unfortunately correlated the macaroni cheese and the illness as cause and effect.

    I couldn't even LOOK at macaroni cheese for about 5 years, and even now will usually opt not to eat it if there is another option. Which seems sad, because yours looks (and sounds) quite yum, especially with extra veges!

  2. Give it a go, I reckon. I always associated macaroni cheese with those ghastly artificial-tasting pasta snacks, which is probably why I haven't made it before now. I can easily understand why you were put off, but I recommend re-trying any food you don't like every few years. I never used to eat mushrooms, pumpkin or kumara, and I hated soup as a kid. Look at me now: I eat everything!


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