Monthly Archives: December 2009

Macaroni and Cheese Challenge – A Recipe – An Entry

Day two. Entry Two.

I don’t think I have been this excited since I realised that if you had a bit of bum-fluff on your top lip at the age of 13, the local newsagent would sell you cigarettes. I have stopped smoking since then but, as I may have mentioned yesterday in my first entry into The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge, I still love Mac ‘n’ Cheese and will never quit making it.

It has been tough 24 hours. I have recounted every version of Mac ‘n’ Cheese that I have ever made, trying to enter a recipe  is going to be tough. I have gone through many stages of my life and along the way the recipe for Mac ‘n’Cheese has changed with me.

As a young boy the recipe was pure and simple, unadulterated  – nothing but short pasta and bechamel sauce with a generous handful of maturing cheddar melted in, baked with a sprinkling of cheese atop – slowly melting and releasing its oils, browning the dish. The little spiky edges of macaroni popping out of the thickened hot cheese sauce, crispy and dark.

As I grew older, I discovered new cheeses and experimented with them, I added all manner of ingredients to the mix and I used all manner of shapes of pasta. There was the 3 month period at the end of 2006 where I thought that  Elbow Macaroni was better than Ditali  when Mac ‘n’ Cheese was to be an accompanying dish to something a little meatier, and also more of a spoonable affair – less baked. I was completely wrong, I don’t know what happened to me.

I now have an handful of recipes that I use, tried and tested, a version for any occasion – a quick snack/ a side dish/ a meal on its own/ a special occasion/ to impress/ for a group/ for a lover – Some are adaptations of dishes I have tasted and some have been honed over time.

Whilst ambling down this cheesy path I have been reminiscing about the many Mac ‘n’ Cheese’s I have eaten in restaurants, many are not worth mentioning but the good the bad and the downright ugly made it out of my head and onto the page:

Adam Street – I still think it is the best Mac ‘n’ cheese I have eaten in London town – Simple, strong cheese kick and (although not my preferred topping, i have grown to love it) three slices of tomato on top.

Canteen – Disappointingly dry (unusual for the venue) and reminiscent of Kraft packet Mac ‘n’ Cheese (which is not a bad thing)

Bob Bob Ricard – A vile, distressing mess. Overcooked pasta, cheese-less tasting sauce and breadcrumbs on top!

Hawksmoor – I know that this is a Food Bloggers fave place to eat, but they should stick to the steaks and burgers.

Bumpkin – A decent attempt, worked well as a side dish to a steak. Creamy and Cheesy.

Black Calvados (Paris) – Late night Mac ‘n’ Cheese with truffles – Probably a little too worse for wear to remember how good it was! I do remember it being perfectly cooked and flecked with black truffles which really released their perfume in a late night club.

Jamin (Paris) – Post Robuchon – Benoît Guichard (his protegé) made the most amazing Macaroni Gratin, pasta cooked in milk, Gruyère crust. Amazing – had it with veal fillet.

L’atelier Joel Robuchon (Monaco) – The ultimate and most revered Mac ‘n’ Cheese with truffles. It is sublime and the master does make it exceedingly well. Tho’ when had in London recently it was only good, not great!

After all that, I still have to enter a recipe. Mac ‘n’ Cheese á la Garlic Confit, if I get a decent camera from the insurance company before the 18th I will enter a picture of this dish.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese á la Garlic Confit

250 gms Good, Straight Macaroni/ Maccheroni (not elbow or short ditali)

150 gms Pancetta

75 gms Sundried Tomatoes

6 Big Cavolo Nero Leaves

675ml Full Fat milk

150 ml Double  Cream

75 gms Good Mature Cheddar (Keen’s, Isle of Mull)

5ogms Hard Alpine Cheese not too aged (Gruyère, Beaufort and even Emmental)

10gms Butter

1 large heaped tbs of plain flour

10gms Parmesan

4 Cloves of Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

6 Peppercorns

1 Small Shallot



This may seem a little involved but once you start it just all fits together.

Firstly take 425ml of the Milk, half the cream, the peeled shallot, peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic. Put in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Take of the heat and set aside to infuse.

Take the Cavolo Nero leaves, remove the spine and chop into 1 inch slices. Cover in a bowl with boiling water and stand for 5 minutes then drain.

Slice the pancetta into short, thin slices. Pop in a frying pan on a high heat and cook till crispy, set aside the fat in a bowl and add the Pancetta to the Cavolo Nero.

Strain the milk into a jug. Remove the bay leaf from the strainer and discard. Put one clove of garlic, the peppercorns and the shallot into a blender with the parmesan, the reserved pancetta fat and the sundried tomatoes and pinch of salt. Blitz till it is a rough paste. Then mix in with the Cavolo Nero and Pancetta.

Put a large pan of water on to boil add a stock cube and the remaining milk, cook the pasta for 3/4 of the packet timing. Drain and refresh immediately in and ice cold bowl of water. Drain and make sure the pasta is cool. Set aside.

Put the butter in a saucepan on a gentle heat, when melted add the flour. Incorporate the flour and continue to cook until you have a breadcrumb like substance in the pan – do not let it brown. Over a low heat slowly add the reserved milk a glug at a time, always making sure you have incorporated the milk before you add more. When all the milk has been added continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until the taste of flour has disappeared. While still warm but off the heat add 60gms of the Cheddar and the Alpine cheese to the sauce, fold until it is all melted in. Then add a good grating of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Cool and add the remaining cream to the sauce and then the cooled pasta.

In an oven dish about 2inches deep and approx 30cm x 25cm – layer the bottom of the dish with the Cavolo Nero mixture and then Macaroni mixture, sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.

Place on the middle shelf of the oven at 190c (fan) for 15-20 minutes (depending on how good your oven is) and then pop under a grill for a minute to brown off the top. The sauce should be still slightly wet, the Cavolo Nero should colour the underside of the pasta red and green when you spoon it onto your plate and it should just all hold together.


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Curried Lamb Mince (Keema) and Butternut Squash – A Recipe

I should really come up with a better name for this dish. The end result does not look that pretty so at least the name should have some pizazz. I will have a think, but I will come round and make it at your house if you can come up with a better one than me – mail me

I went on a bit of post-Christmas shop yesterday and found my self with lots of Lamb Mince. The first thing I wanted to make was Shepherd’s Pie, I love it and have not made it for quite a while – however the Mrs is not a fan of potatoes and tonight is an evening devoted to making her happy.

Keema – Indian Lamb Mince and thoroughly good for you. It is a staple at WNC, seeing as today is a Wednesday I thought it would be a good idea. I had a squash sitting there all-lonely-like and to decided to pop some in. It adds a little bit of colour and a soft texture to the mince, which can be quite monotonous. I usually add some peas as well right at the end. The mix if made a little drier is perfect for samosas.

Curried Lamb Mince and Butternut Squash

500g Lamb Mince

200g Butternut Squash

2 Tomatoes

1 Large onion

2-3 Cloves of Garlic

2 inches of ginger

2 Green Chillies

1tbs Cumin Powder

1tsp Cumin Seeds

1tbs Coriander Powder

1/2 tsp Coriander Seeds

2 Cloves

2 Cardamom Pods

1 Small Stick of Mace

4 Black Peppercorns


Thinly slice the onion and fry in a large deep frying pan till soft and just turning golden. Add the pasted ginger, garlic and chilli. Fry for a minute till they are cooked through. Add all the spices and fry till the smells start to come out of the pan. Add the meat, tomatoes and the squash. Mix everything together on an high heat and brown the meat.

Once the meat has broken down and is brown at enough water to cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Serve in pitta breads or on rice.

Garlic Confit - Curried Lamb Mince and Butternut Squash

What shall we call you?


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Come Dine With Me – No Thanks!

I just sat down to have a (really) late lunch, popped on the TV for a few minutes to relax the old brain and zone out while I ate and lo and behold: Come Dine With Me. I could not stop my self from repeatedly screaming expletives at the television. I could have switched it off, but I did not. I think it makes you stupid, it may even attach itself secretively to your brain stem and suck you dry of any normal thought.

Don’t get me wrong I can see why this piece of total and utter drivel is currently in it’s 7th series. From a TV perspective it is must be a winner, proper car-crash TV. Round up a bunch of complete and total muppets or as the website says ‘amateur chefs’, watch them all attempt to cook something edible in a dinner party setting and then to top it all of hand one of them £1000 and the title of winner. Surely they are all losers?

I have, it has to be admitted, watched one (not all the way through mind you) episode of Celebrity Come Dine With Me – the one with David Gest where he did not cook but got Sylvana Rowe of Baltic, to do it instead. They give the money to charity so that is fine and they make larger idiots of themselves so that is fine. They are obviously trying to upgrade their status from the bowels of the alphabet, they must have shite agents and publicists!

I have grown to love certain ‘reality’ programmes – where would Saturday and Sunday nights be without some XFactor and We all love to watch a Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmare  – but seriously how can any of these ‘contestants’ have got though the natural selection net. None of them seem to posses the tiniest amount of cooking ability or taste buds.

Come Dine With Me – I’d rather gouge out my liver with a shard of glass from bottle of sherry vinegar, then quickly pan fry it.

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Macaroni and Cheese Challenge – Drink Pairing Entry

I am not one for entering competitions. I understand the concept that ‘you have to be in it to win it’, however I never did win anything as a child (except the spelling cup at school aged 9) and so relegated competitions to the bottom of the ‘must do’ pile.

This morning as I was perusing the tweets of London foodies @eatlikeagirl &  @thewinesleuth RT’d The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge as you will see there are 4 categories for entry and the deadline is Jan 18th.

Macaroni and Cheese was one of the first dishes I could cook, I remember making it for my family at the age of 9, it guided me through my formative years, it was the benchmark for a restaurant until the age of 13 (that and a BLT sandwich) and so there is no way that I can not enter…Macaroni and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food. There are many curries that make me happy but it is the combination of Pasta and cheese sauce baked to perfection that really gets me going.

I make it in many different ways – More Cheese, Less Cheese, More Sauce, Less Sauce, Back Bacon or Pancetta, Tomato, Cabbage, Garlic….the variations are literally endless. My favourite way is just plain and simple, a little ketchup on the side, a few spoonfuls of baked beans and some Amoy Chilli sauce half mixed into the ketchup.

I have not found the terms&conditions of entry as yet for the competition but I am assuming I can spread my entries over as many categories as I want…Today my entry is a Pairing with a drink…I will probably enter an recipe and a picture before the time runs out.

As I have a ton of different ways to make Mac ”n Cheese I think that the best way to do a pairing is with a traditional recipe. So this goes out to all the purists – Bechamel Sauce, Cheddar and Macaroni and the Pairing is:

Chateau Du Galoupet, Cru Classé Rosé, 2008, Côtes de Provence

Best Provencal Rose

The Mac 'n' Cheese Winner...


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Sausage Burger – A Recipe

I have said it before and I will say it again I don’t do Christmas. The birth of Jesus, Santa and Turkey leave me wishing I was on a beach, eating dim sum.

Pretty much my only respite from all of the festivities is >>>>Sausagemeat. It is everywhere. I love the fact you can get it easily and without having to ask your butcher. Why oh why does Britain only need sausagemeat for stuffings and other such dishes at christmas? Why can’t we have it freely available through out the year? Maybe I should start a campaign…

Once you have stuffed your goose and you have a spare pound of sausagemeat what do you do? You only have recipes for stuffing! Delia does not tell you what to do with leftover uncooked sausagemeat, Jamie is on holiday and Gordo’ is too busy stuffing his remaining cash in his pockets before the VATman nabs him.

Sausage Burgers are the answer. Sandwich it between some Poilane, Romaine and a Dijonnaise type affair (anyone else remember that? Do they still make it?)

BTW if you have a proper meat mincer (To be purchased soon Kitchen Craft ICast Iron Meat Mincer No.8 with Sausage Making Attachment) then grab yourself a shoulder of pork and pass it through about 3 times – the third time add the mixture below with out the sausagemeat obviously. The Shoulder should have about 75% meat and 25% fat and is a great way to make sausagemeat at home.

Sausage Burgers

500g Sausagemeat (85% meat content)

1 red onion

12 sage leaves

1tbs Dijon Mutard

2 tbs Worcester Sauce

1 Small Clove of Garlic

1/2 inch piece of Ginger

1/4 of a tart crisp apple (Braeburn is always my choice)

1 tsp of brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

pinch of sea salt


Chop the onion and soften in some duck fat. Cool and add to the meat.

Paste all the other ingredients together – pestle, grinder, whizzer – whatever suits.

Mix everything together, divide the meat into 4 and shape into burgers.

Grill or Fry for about 10-14 mins turning a few times.

GArlic Confit - Sausage Burger

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Late Night Chai – A Recipe

As I left the in-laws on Boxing Day, a VHS sized package of foil (amongst other food based items) was shoved into a Sainsbury’s bag for life. When the various leftovers were unpacked the ‘Video’ was not a classic film but a chunk of Christmas cake.

The Mother in-law is a master baker. Our wedding cake was VERY pretty and moist, in addition to the actual cake there were also little boxes with a chocolate cake inside. The Christmas cake was icing and marzipan-less and very fruity. Light enough to actually be eaten and not consigned to an old biscuit tin for the month of January and then fed to the birds.

After the cinema last night the Mrs needed a cup of something hot and a bit of cake, mainly to counteract the unsatisfying ‘return to form’ of the Coen Brothers new release, A Serious man. We were out of fresh mint and had no more fresh ginger either (I must do some shopping) and so I thought I would make a variation of my Masala Chai. Traditionally Masala Chai is sweet and rich, so not the ideal thing to have before bed, especially with the old stomach problems.

I have a constant supply of Black tea from Nilgiri in the house and I always use it for Chai as it is perfect, big rolled leaves, none of this dusty rubbish you get from the big manufacturers. If you can get some real tea use it, otherwise use a good Assam varietal or blend. As it was a late/lighter alternative I thought it best to use the milk of the devil, Semi-Skimmed, and to use a little less sugar but a bit more spice. The cumin makes it ever so savoury and a totally different drink. It works very well with Christmas cake and as a bedtime soother.

Late Night Chai

A good handful of Black Tea leaves

500ml water

250 ml Semi Skimmed Milk

12 Cardamom pods

1/4 nutmeg

6 Cloves

6 Black Peppercorns

A pinch of Cumin Seeds

2tbs of Brown Sugar

Peel of half a clementine


Pop all the ingredients except the milk in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15mins. Pop in the milk bring back to the boil, Strain to serve.

spicy tea

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Soseki EC3 – A Review

It is hard to know what to do when you find your new favourite restaurant.

  • Do you tell everyone you know all about it? With the hope that the service and the quality of the food will not falter with the massive influx of new diners.
  • Do you keep going back every chance you get? With the hope that the experience does not diminish with each visit and the initial happiness that you felt when dining there lingers till your last breath.
  • Do you just Savour the memory? With the knowledge that all new dining experiences have a tall order to try to live up to your new benchmark and also with a small glimmer of hope that one may topple the incumbent.

I am not quite sure what I have done since going to Soseki, I have told many people about how much I like it, I have been back weekly since my first visit and I have thought about the surroundings and the tastes whilst sleeping, walking and driving.

Initially I was impressed with the atmosphere. The team have taken a glass and concrete box in the city and magically transformed the interior space to resemble, well, Mr Miyagi’s House in Karate Kid II. Classical Japanese rusticity next to a big metal Cornichon. It invites you to be calm and it gently places you on an alternate plane.

The booth seating is warm and intimate and some seats give you a bird’s eye view of St Mary’s Axe, the sushi bar is spacious and lets you spy on the skilled chefs at work. There is a private room/ hut which can hold a few more diners for a small party.

Opened by Caroline Bennet – who was the sushi conveyor belt pioneer in the UK (Moshi-Moshi)
‘The idea behind Soseki is the Japanese concept of kaiseki-kappo, a style of cooking which originated in high-class restaurants for the wealthy merchants living in Osaka in the nineteenth century. The meal is composed of several dishes made by different and specific culinary methods, each artistically presented in its own beautiful container. The appearance of these dishes is as important as the taste, and is heavily influenced by the seasons.’

They also ‘practice’ ‘omakase’ which basically means that you trust the chef to choose what is good. The sushi sets and most of the set menus rely upon this principle. Their fish is sourced from sustainable waters and occasionally veers of the comon ground. The bream sashimi on my last visit was fresh and clean, firm to the bite with a full and somewhat smoky flavour. The tuna was some of the best I have had in a while as was the yellowtail.

The other dishes are like no other you have seen on a ‘Japanese’ menu in London, Inventive use of seasonal ingredients, prepared with a sympathetic nod to both east and west. The rare wagyu beef salad, wood sorrel, pickled celeriac and samphire Tosazu (soy sauce, bonito and vinegar dipping sauce) Jelly was one of the best things to have passed my lips in recent months. The Daikon salad was crisp, fresh and made tangy with the ponzu dressing.

The Steamed Cornish fish I had the first time i went was perfectly cooked and accompanied by tobiko and braised daikon – it was also supporting Slow Food London’s Terre Madre day. The rest of the mains are yet to be tried, but will be devoured on the next visit.

The only questionable dish was one of the deserts, a macha cheesecake, sour cherries and some crunch and ice cream. All was good aside from the overdose of macha sprinkled on the top, it overpowered everything and left an astringent taste in the mouth.

The pricing is not steep but it is not out of this world. I believe that it reflects the style, quality and atmosphere of the establishment – it does have special occasion written all over it however.

Garlic Confit  Review – Every Night of the Week

Soseki on Urbanspoon

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