The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

Two Recipes for Mac & Cheese, & a Stilton Walnut Pasta

Macaroni and cheese. Americans do not associate macaroni and cheese with Britain, but Britons do, and recipes appear at least as early as the seventeenth century. Good recipes abound; this one from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock is not the most elaborate but may be the best. We like to boost their original version with dice of ham and tiny rounds of scallion greens. Eight generous portions.


-unsalted butter
-1 lb campanelli or other short pasta of your choice
-1 ¼ cups sharp Cheddar or other hard English cheese cut into ½ inch cubes
-about 1 cup ham or tasso cut into 3/8 inch dice
-about ½ cup minced scallion greens
Cheddar-Cheese.jpg-2 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon flour
-2 generous teaspoons dry mustard
-1 teaspoon salt
-¼ teaspoon pepper
-¼ teaspoon cayenne
-scant ¼ teaspoon mace
-2/3 cup sour cream
-2 beaten eggs
-½ cup grated onion
-1½ cups ‘half & half’
-1½ cups heavy cream
-2 generous teaspoons Worcestershire
-about 1½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar


  1. Grease a 9x13 inch ovenproof dish or something similar with the butter.
  2. Cook the pasta, toss it with the ham and scallions, and dump the mixture into the buttered dish.

    Preheat the oven to 350°.

  3. Mix together the flour, salt, mustard, pepper, cayenne and mace in a big bowl.
  4. Add the sour cream, then the eggs, and whisk them until everything in the bowl has married.
  5. Add the onion, ‘half & half,’ cream and Worcestershire, and whisk them into the mix as well until you have a uniform custard.
  6. Pour the custard over the pasta mixture and top it with the shredded cheese.
  7. Bake the dish until the custard sets around the perimeter but remains a little runny within, usually from 30-40 minutes.
  8. Let the macaroni and cheese rest for 10-15 minutes; the custard will continue to set. Resist any temptation to overcook the dish; the custard will keep cooking in its own residual heat after you take it from the oven.

Notes:

- The Cheddar, mace, mustard and Worcestershire are, of course, bedrock elements of British cuisine.

- The original recipe, from The Gift of Southern Cooking (New York 2003) specifies half the amount of pasta. That must be a typographical error.

- It also calls for the more classic elbow shapes. We like the way the corrugated texture of the campanelli grips the sauce.

- The original recipe also uses nutmeg, which works as well as the more traditionally English mace in our recipe. We have varied the proportions of a number of the other ingredient through trial and error.

- If you do not have, or do not like, ‘half & half,’ use a blend of half milk and half cream.

- Tasso is a Louisiana pork product cured with a good dose of spice. You can find it in specialty shops and online from Louisiana shippers like www.cajungrocer.com. Use any ham or other cured pork you like; porchetta, capicola and smoked sausage all work.

- If you are serving vegetarians the original meatless version still packs plenty of appeal, or you could use about a cup of chopped mushrooms instead of the ham.

- A nice if nontraditional variation substitutes a like amount of crawfish tails for the diced ham.

- For some reason British people tend to drop the connector and call it ‘macaroni cheese.’

 

 

Caribbean macaroni and cheese. This is an easy and bracing version from the British West Indies laced with Angostura bitters. For four.


twotomatoes.jpg-unsalted butter for greasing a 9 inch pie plate
-½ lb campanelle
-2/3 cup shredded Cheddar
-a beaten egg
-½ cup canned San Marzano or other Italian plum tomatoes
-1 cup milk
-2 generous teaspoons Angostura bitters
-scant ¼ teaspoon or more cayenne
-about ½ cup breadcrumbs
-2 Tablespoons minced parsley
-another 1/3 cup shredded Cheddar
-another Tablespoon unsalted butter


  1. Grease a 9 inch pie plate.
  2. Cook and drain the pasta, toss it with the first tranche of cheese and dump the mixture in a biggish bowl.

    Preheat the oven to 350°.

  3. Stir together the egg, tomatoes, milk, bitters and cayenne, then combine them thoroughly with the pasta and cheese.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the pie plate.
  5. Toss the breadcrumbs with the parsley and second tranche of cheese and spread the topping over the macaroni mixture in the pie plate, then dot the topping with butter.
  6. Bake the pie until the top turns brown, usually in about 25-30 minutes; let the pie rest for 10-15 minutes before serving to allow the filling to set.

Notes:

- The consistency of the pie will be a little wetter and less custardy than the version based on the Lewis and Peacock version, the price of the tangy tomato.

- Once again, substitute any short pasta you like for our preference.

- Increase or reduce the amount of bitters as you wish; we tend to a heavier hand.

- For a spicier dish without further fuss, substitute Rotel tomatoes for the plums; they include green chilies and spice.

- This is a welcome weeknight dish. It is fast to prepare and cooks in a short time.

 

Pasta with celery, Stilton and walnuts. Pasta may not be an English word, but by any other name the English have eaten it for centuries. Think of ‘Yankee Doodle.’ Our recipe, however, is not so old. It is adapted from one that Lindsey Bareham published in the London Evening Standard during 2000, something that she in turn had adapted from Valentina Harris’ Four Seasons Cookbook. The elements of the sauce could not be more English, so the recipe qualifies as representative of authentic if modern British foodways. For four.


stilton.jpg-1 lb pasta
-4 celery ribs trimmed into ¼ inch crescents
-2 oz unsalted butter
-¾ cup milk
-2 oz heavy cream
-scant ¼ teaspoon cayenne
-heaped ¼ teaspoon celery seed
-¼ teaspoon mace
-a generous teaspoon Worcestershire
-about 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
-minced celery leaves
-minced chive or scallion greens
-6 oz crumbled Stilton or an inferior variant of blue cheese (all of the others are essentially inferior)


  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Fry the celery in the butter over medium low heat for just a few minutes until barely tender.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk, cream, cayenne, celery seed, mace and Worcestershire.
  4. Give the sauce a stir, then add the Stilton and gently continue to stir the sauce until it thickens. It will not take long.
  5. Toss the pasta with the sauce, then fold the walnuts into the dish.
  6. Top each serving with a scatter of chive and celery leaf.

Notes:

- Any number of pasta shapes fit this dish, from long ones like fettuccine or spaghetti to big round ones like rigatoni or ziti.

- The original recipe lacks the celery seed, cayenne, mace and Worcestershire. Nor does it include the greens; you might try some celery leaf before its addition. We like it but others find it a little bitter.

- Celery bitters is another addition that gets you another layer of celery. The Toll Brothers product is good but pricey. Add the bitters at Step 4 with the cheese.

- We like to replace a quarter of the Stilton with grated Parmesan, another ingredient imported to Britain since at least as early as the seventeenth century and a staple of better-heeled British kitchens ever since.