Food is complex. I loved macaroni and cheese as a child. In fact it might not be an exaggeration to say that I was the ultimate fan. All day every day, I could eat this stuff up. My dear mother indulged me too, often making it in response to my adamant requests. I’m pretty certain my siblings and my father grew increasingly tired of it. Nevertheless, it was the most comforting of foods to me. It felt like home. I guess it still does that for me.
In the not so distant past, I was dealt a personal blow and much adversity came from a single defining moment in my life. Yet, incredibly, as if twisted in my life philosophy, for the remainder of the week that defining moment left me longing for macaroni and cheese. I felt as though, if I could make it to that weekend, everything would be fine if I could just have some macaroni and cheese. That doesn’t even make any sense, does it? Somehow it made the world of sense to me. What is comfort food after all? It is nostalgic and reassuring; I remember the smell of the most delicious mac and cheese wafting through my childhood home with the promise of something so satisfying to come. I suppose in a way, it still does as it did then, make me feel as if my parents are with me, loving me, caring for me, and guiding me every step of the way no matter what challenges I face. I suppose my point is this, in a life where we seldom slow down to enjoy the simple things, comfort food is there to remind us that we have a place in the world, someone somewhere cares. Have some macaroni and cheese, in the end, it will all work itself out.
· 200g dried macaroni
· 1 tbsp olive oil
· Butter for greasing ramekins
· 1 large shallot, chopped
· 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
· 40ml white wine
· 100ml crème fraiche
· 2 egg yolks
· 75g parmesan cheese
· 75g aged cheddar cheese
· 25g panko breadcrumbs
· ¾lb lobster meat, cooked
· 2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes
· 1 tbsp olive oil
· 2 cloves garlic
· Bunch basil leaves
· Balsamic vinegar
· Few watercress leaves to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Meanwhile cook the macaroni in a large pan of salted boiling water for about 8 minutes or to package directions.
- Drain the macaroni and run under cold water. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan to medium heat and add the chopped bacon and shallot and thyme leaves. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and allow the wine to halve in volume. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and lightly golden. Set aside.
- Whisk the crème fraiche, egg yolks, half the parmesan and cheddar with some salt and pepper. Combine the bacon and shallots with the mixture and add the cooked chopped lobster meat. Combine everything with the cooked macaroni.
- Pour the macaroni mixture into lightly buttered 7 ounce ramekins.
- Mix the remaining parmesan with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle the mixture over the macaroni in the ramekins.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until piping hot and golden on top
- Leave to stand 5 minutes
- Meanwhile, place the tomatoes evenly on a lightly greased baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and crush the garlic over the tomatoes.
- Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and place under the broiler at 180 ⁰C for 15 minutes until the skin of the tomatoes are well blistered
- To serve, place a few basil leaves on a large plate on one side and scatter over tomatoes.
- Add one of the ramekins to the other side of the plate and garnish with watercress leaves.