I don’t particulary recall eating macaroni cheese as a child not from a Heinz tin, not lovingly made by mother or grandmother, its simply not a dish that springs to mind as something we ate often. I don’t know why. So when Fiona Beckett started the idea of the ultimate mac n’ cheese (as our friends in the US of A call it) I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to create my own version. Fiona’s competition started out simple and then got lots of categories (best this, best that, best other and so on) and I toyed with the artisanal cheese category for quite sometime knowing which cheese I would choose. And then Fiona announced the prizes and my mind was made up I had to have the Emma Bridgewater macaroni cheese dish come what may. So my entry is for the most original recipe.
Starting with my artisanal cheese idea and then spooling it out into the dish my mother or grandmother could have made I decide this had to be a dish based in the foods of Lancashire (well apart from the macaroni of course). I played with adding things like vimto or tizer, might they be secret umami giving ingredients, unlikely, so they were consigned to the ‘too original’ slot. Some researching in Laura Mason and Catherine Brown’s Traditional Foods of Britain (if you don’t have this book and you love British food just get it) led me to two possibilities: potted shrimps or bury black pudding. A tough one a really tough one. So I flipped a coin and it came down on the side of the black pudding.
Here’s what I did (its in old measures in honour of my Grandma):
Ingredients (for 2 hungry people):
1 bury black pudding (the sort in a hoop shape and of about 1” diameter)
3-4 oz dried macaroni each – depending on your greed
¾ pint full fat milk
1 oz flour
1 oz butter and some for frying
4 oz Sandhams Tasty Lancashire cheese*
2 oz Booths** Special Reserve Tasty Lancashire Cheese*, grated/crumbled
pre heat oven to R4/180C
- Cook the macaroni in boiling lightly salted water as per the instructions on your packet (mine said 8 minutes). When cooked drain and keep on one side.
- Slices the black pudding into ½” rounds and fry quickly on either side in a small amount of butter. You are aiming for the outside to be crispy and the middle still soft. Removes the skin from the pudding and crumble the slices.
- Make a white sauce of a thickish consistency (between coating and panada) using the ‘all in one’ method. So put the flour, milk and butter in a pan and heat gently stirring continouosly until it thickens. Add the 4oz of Sandhams Tasty Lancashire cheese and season to taste.
- Find a shallow dish, butter it (dream of it being this Emma Bridgewater dish).
- Toss the crumbled black pudding in with the cooked macaroni, stir in the cheese sauce. Tip it all in the buttered dish.
- Sprinkle with the 2oz of Booths Special Reserve Tasty Lancashire.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Eat and dream of Lancashire.
* If you don’t know that there’s more than 1 version of real Lancashire cheese then watch out for my tasting of seven types coming soon. I’ve picked these two examples because like all Lancashire they melt beautifully and because they differ in strength, the Sandhams is slighty milder (but still with a good tang) the Booths** has a strong tasty Lancs hit.
** Booths is a small supermarket chain based in the North West of England. If all supermarkets were like Booths it would be a good thing.