Posted by: Stephlechef | October 17, 2011

Heavenly Alpine Macaroni

I recently borrowed Valentine Warner’s gorgeous book What to Eat Now from the library, and I am a little bit in love. His illustrations are dotted around the book, photos of his ridiculously satisfied face full of food on each cover, and all the recipes are preceded by an anecdote, or advice, written by him (for example, this recipe starts with “If you make more, you will certainly eat more, so caution my friend, for after the gluttony will come your piggy remorse and total inability to move”. I love that.)

The books are in 2 parts – the first about Spring and Summer eating, and the second Autumn and Winter. And where last week all that was needed was fresh, hot weather food, this week it. was. freezing. And when I read this recipe, this was the warming, wintery goodness we needed.

By the way, I don’t like macaroni cheese. There are some foods which are never as good as you imagine them to be when you crave them, and then finally get your hands on them. And I call these my “macaroni cheese” foods. The kind of foods you crave when you’re on holiday and they don’t sell stupid English food, or when you’re in the middle of a cold sports field watching sport (ha!) or something. Things like beans on toast, and… macaroni cheese. But this dish really, really has very, very little to do with “normal” macaroni cheese. It is rich, and warming, and hearty, and satisfying… It tastes like fondue with pasta in it. I’m not sure if I’m more in love with Valentine or his cheesey dishes…

p.s. don’t leave out the apple sauce, unless you are allergic to apples. It really does add to the dish- the apple taste is a lovely counter to the saltiness of the cheese – think about a cheese board with grapes on!

p.p.s. if you are on any kind of low-fat, low-calorie, or guilt-inducing diet, don’t read any further. There really is no point. You will only feel sad and bad. Or, keep reading, give yourself a night off and go back on the veggies tomorrow. The fab thing is, it’s so satisfying you don’t need a massive bowlful. You might want one though…

Alpine Macaroni (adapted from Valentine Warner)

(Serves 4 – total cost £8.50 [not cheap but totally worth it]. per portion £2.10)

250g gruyère cheese, grated (yep, told you it wasn’t good for waistlines)

25g butter

1 large tbsp flour

200ml Riesling white wine (I used pinot grigio, because that’s what was in the fridge, I imagine a Riesling would give a more German-ny/Alpine-y taste)

1 tbsp German mustard (I used Dijon, reason as above… I’m not one for buying random ingredients)

150ml single cream

150g smoked streaky bacon

300g dried macaroni

1 large onion

lots of oil, for deep frying (and you thought the cheese was bad)

3 eating apples (not really sweet ones)

100-125ml water

1tsp caster sugar

white wine vinegar

There are a few elements to this recipe, and I haven’t really figured out the optimum order yet… in the book, it’s a bit annoyingly one-by-one, whereas in real life you can get on with more than one thing at once… the good thing is that everything is re-heatable, apart from the onions, which don’t need to be served hot. So…

First, make the apple sauce: peel, core and chop the apples. Put in the microwave with the water, sugar and a splash of vinegar. Cook until the apples are totally squished, and then blitz with a hand blender… add more water if it seems a bit too thick.

Then make the cheese sauce: Melt the butter in the pan, whisk in the flour (tip the pan when you do this, it saves trying to scrape a layer of buttery flour off the bottom of the pan. Let the floury mix heat through for a few seconds. Slowly add the wine, whisking constantly. Use up all the wine, and keep whisking, and you’ll end up with a thickened, smoothy sauce. Mix in the cheese and melt it, then take the mix off the heat and add the mustard and the cream. Leave to one side. (The book suggests seasoning with salt, but for me the cheese and the smokey bacon are plenty salty enough, merci beaucoup)

For the bacon: Cut into 1cm strips, and fry until crispy.

Put the pasta on to cook as per pack instructions.

For the onions: Slice the onion in half, then slice the halves into veeeeeery thin slices. Fry in 1cm deep hot oil until dark but not burnt, then lift out and drain on kitchen roll- they should go lovely and crispy.

When the pasta is cooked, pour the cheese sauce in, and add the bacon. Warm it all through. Plonk the apple sauce back in the microwave to heat it back up… and it’s ready!! Serve the pasta with onions on top and a dollop of apple sauce on top of that.

And then curl up on the sofa and digest it all.

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