Cheese, bacon and pasta is a crowd-pleasing combination
Mac 'n' cheese is a comfort food classic, this version has been elevated so it's smart enough to serve to friends, too.
• Serves 5 • Prep 40 mins plus infusing • Cook 1 hr
2 bay leaves
1 large leek, washed and roughly chopped
1.2 litres semi-skimmed milk
100g salted butter
100g plain flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
280g extra mature cheddar, grated
50g parmesan, finely grated
6 spring onions, finely chopped
70g pack pancetta slices
2 hand-cut thick slices bread (about 2cm) from a white loaf, cubed olive oil, for drizzling
1 Put the bay leaves, leek and milk in a pan, and gently heat until just steaming, but don't let it boil. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hr.
2 Drain the milk and discard the leek and bay. Wipe out the pan, then add the butter, flour and mustard powder. Heat, stirring, until the butter has melted, then cook to a paste for 1 min. Add a splash of milk and stir until smooth, then add the rest of the milk, a little at a time at first. (If you get any lumps, give it a vigorous whisk to remove.) Heat, stirring all the time and scraping the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t catch, until the sauce is bubbling and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in 200g of the cheddar and 25g of the parmesan. Season.
3 Cook the macaroni following pack instructions, until it is almost tender. Drain well, then stir into the cheese sauce with three-quarters of the spring onions. Scrape into a large ovenproof dish or several individual ones.
4 Scatter the remaining cheddar over the macaroni, then alternate between draping over pancetta slices (bunching them up a bit) and scattering with the bread cubes and remaining spring onions. (If you keep swapping between ingredients you’ll get a nice mix of everything on the top.) Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and add a very little drizzle of oil – holding your thumb over the bottle so just a trickle comes out. Can now be cooled, covered and chilled for up to one day, or frozen for up to one month.
5 Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Bake for 40 mins until bubbling, and crunchy and golden on top (if using individual dishes, check after 30 mins).
PER SERVING 1,011 kcals, protein 43g, carbs 97g, fat 50g, sat fat 29g, fibre 5g, sugars 14g, salt 2.5g
• Serves 4 • Prep 20 mins • Cook 1/2 hrs
1 tsp olive oil
4 chicken legs
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g pack small button or chestnut mushrooms
225ml red wine
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 thyme sprigs
500ml chicken stock
1 Heat the oil and half the butter in a large lidded casserole. Season the chicken, then fry for 5 mins on each side until browned.
2 Remove the chicken and set aside, then melt the rest of the butter in the pan. Add the onion, then fry for about 5 mins until soft. Add the garlic, cook for about 1 min, add the mushrooms, cook for 2 mins, then pour in the wine. Stir in the tomato purée, let the liquid bubble and reduce for about 5 mins, then stir in the thyme and pour over the stock. Slip the chicken back into the pan, then cover and simmer on a low heat for about 1 hr until the chicken is very tender.
3 Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Rapidly boil down the sauce for 10 mins or so until it is syrupy and the flavour has concentrated. Put the chicken legs back into the sauce and serve.
PER SERVING 439 kcals, protein 35g, carbs 7g, fat 28g, saturates 10g, fibre 2g, sugarS 6g, salt 1.1g
• Serves 4 • Prep 20 mins • Cook 1 hr 40 mins
100g dripping or butter
900g stewing lamb, cut into large chunks
3 lamb kidneys, sliced, fat removed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
25g plain flour
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
500ml lamb or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
900g potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Heat a little of the dripping or butter in a large shallow casserole dish and brown the stewing lamb chunks in batches, lift to a plate, then repeat with the lamb kidneys.
2 Fry the onions and carrots in the pan with a little more dripping until golden. Sprinkle over the plain flour, allow to cook for a couple of mins, shake over the Worcestershire sauce, pour in the stock, then bring to the boil. Stir in the stewing lamb and kidneys and the bay leaves, then turn off the heat.
3 Arrange the potatoes on top of the meat, then drizzle with a little more dripping. Cover, then put in the oven for about 1½ hrs until the potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid, brush the potatoes with a little more dripping, then turn the oven up to brown the potatoes, or finish under the grill for 5-8 mins until brown.
PER SERVING 993 kcals, fat 56g, saturates 26g, carbs 56g, sugars 12g, fibre 7g, protein 70g, salt 1.4g
There are a few rules for achieving a perfect toad-in-the-hole. Use a heavy metal roasting tin or an enamel baking dish – a glass or ceramic dish just won’t do – and don’t open the oven until the pudding is gloriously puffed and golden.
• Serves 4-6 • Prep 20 mins plus 2 hrs resting • Cook 40 mins
140g plain flour
4 large eggs
300ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard handful woody herbs, leaves picked and chopped (we used 6 sage leaves, 4 rosemary sprigs and 4 thyme sprigs), plus a handful, fried until crisp, to serve (optional)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
8 sausages (we used Cumberland but use your favourite variety)
2 red onions, cut into wedges green vegetables and mash (optional), to serve
drizzle sunflower oil
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml red wine
500ml chicken or beef stock
1 Tip the flour into a large jug or bowl. Crack in the eggs, one at a time, whisking as you do. Pour in the milk and continue whisking until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. Add the mustard, herbs and season. Cover and leave for 2 hrs, or chill overnight.
2 Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Heat the oil in a large metal roasting tin or enamel baking dish, roughly 30 x 22cm. Wrap a rasher of bacon around each sausage and pop in the dish with the onion wedges. Place on the middle shelf of the oven (the top shelf should be removed to allow space for the batter to rise). Cook for 15-20 mins until the sausages and bacon are brown and sizzling.
3 Meanwhile, make the gravy. Drizzle a little oil into a saucepan. Add the sliced onions and cook slowly for 15 mins. Stir every now and then until they are soft and caramelised. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar, and cook for 5 mins more until sticky.
4 The batter should be the consistency of double cream. If it has become a little thick, add a splash of cold water. Take the batter to the oven, open the door, carefully pull out the shelf and quickly pour the batter around the sausages. Close the oven and do not open it again for at least 25 mins.
5 To finish the gravy, stir the flour into the onions to make a paste, cooking for 1-2 mins. Continue stirring while you splash in the wine, a little at a time, until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Increase the heat and bubble for a few mins until reduced by half. Add the stock, season and continue bubbling for 10 mins.
6 By now the toad should be puffed and golden brown. If not, don't open the oven, continue cooking. Serve scattered with the crisp herbs (if using) and with the gravy, green veg and mash, if you like.
PER SERVING (6) 612 kcals, fat 34g, saturates 11g, carbs 42g, sugars 13g, fibre 3g, protein 26g, salt 3g ■