Friday, 27 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Macaroni Cheese

I've been wanting to try this recipe since before I bought my rice cooker, but my family are not big pasta eaters apart from me, so it's taken until now to get round to it (and I'll probably end up eating it myself for the next four days).

Macaroni and cheese has become such an incredibly American food that I bet some people wouldn't even think of it as being Italian, but it is! It's thought to be medieval in origin, and was a very upper class dish! I wonder what Kraft Foods would make of that?

Anyway this meal didn't really bear much resemblance to the bright yellow powder of the instant packets or the cheese and pasta casserole of medieval Italy, but it was delicious nonetheless.

First, a word of warning. The recipe I used (shamefully I have forgotten where I found it) called for two cups of uncooked macaroni, and said it served four. I don't know how big an American cup is, but it must be significantly bigger than my rice cooker cup because two of those cups contained about fifty pieces of pasta - certainly not enough to serve four. When I doubled the quantity, I encountered another problem: the extra liquid meant that the dew collector, which captures the condensing steam, overflowed and flooded the work surface and interior of the cooker with sticky, starchy goo.

However, the actual recipe was very simple and probably the quickest preparation time I've had so far. I've used the quantities given in the original recipe - just adjust according to what looks right.

Place 2 cups uncooked macaroni, 1 cup stock and 1 cup milk into the rice cooker and press cook. Once it switches to Keep Warm, add 1 1/2 cups grated hard cheese (I used cheddar), a large blob of butter and a pinch of salt, pepper and other seasoning (I used garlic pepper because that's what we had). You may also need to add a bit more water, if the pasta looks quite dry. Stir it all together well, then press cook again.

It's really simple, and although not quite what I'd consider traditional macaroni cheese it is surprisingly delicious. It only took about half an hour, maybe a bit longer but I was cooking another meal at the same time so didn't keep track. I think it would be nice with something added to it - I'm considering trying taking the cooked macaroni and cheese, putting it into a casserole dish, covering it with breadcrumbs and cheese, and grilling it for a little while. But it's really moreish even without all that. It wasn't meant to be dinner but I can't help raiding the pot for another piece. Lunch is going to be tasty tomorrow!

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