Friday, 11 April 2008

Pantry Challenge

Over on Violets Pantry we have been set another challenge recently. Every two weeks one of the members sets a new challenge. They pick three recipes and then each of that are participating can pick one, two or all three of the recipes to cook. This is our first challenge of this type and I am hoping to make 2 of the suggested recipes. I think this is a wonderful idea as we can share our recipes and try something new.

Pi set the first challenge and we had a choice of Macaroni, Cheese and Tomato Bake, Finger Lickin Chicken Wings or Apple and Almond Galette. I decided to start off with the macaroni. I do macaroni cheese fairly often but this recipe is very different from the one I normally use. It was absolutely delicious and the bechemel sauce is wonderful. I will definately use this recipe again.

I halved the recipe as there are only 2 of us. I also only put tomatoes on half of the dish as my husband doesn't like them. The only other change I made was to add a little parmesan as I had a small bit that needed using up. I have never used an egg in my macaroni before but it was really nice and gave the whole dish a lovely light texture. The addition of a bit of cream to the bechemel was wonderful too. I'm sorry there is no photograph of my finished dish today as the batteries in my camera were flat and I didn't have any more. I must make sure that that doesn't happen again.

Here is Pi's recipe if anyone wants to give it a try.

Serves 4

250g macaroni
1 tspn dry mustard or 1 Tbsp Dijon
1 egg, separated
180g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
450g tomatoes, sliced

Béchamel Sauce:
60g unsalted butter
40g all-purpose flour
600ml whole milk
1 bay leaf a little extra milk
80ml cream, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Firstly make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to form a roux. Let this cook for a couple of minutes to avoid a floury-tasting sauce. Stir in about a quarter of the milk and beat well over the heat until it thickens. Gradually add the rest of the milk and keep stirring vigorously, still over the heat, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add the bay leaf and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring the sauce to the boil and then turn the heat down to low. Let the sauce gently simmer for about five minutes. Stir every now and then to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. Thin the sauce by stirring in a little extra milk if necessary. (If you are making the sauce well in advance, do not stir in this extra milk but pour it over the top of the sauce and leave it, to prevent a skin from forming.) When you are ready to use the sauce, remove the bay leaf, and add the cream if using.

Set the oven to 200ºC. Grease a ovenproof dish approximately 20 x 30 x 6cm in size.

Cook the pasta with a tablespoon of salt for about 2 minutes less than recommend on the packet, or until tender but still with some bite. Drain the pasta and tip into a large bowl.

Stir the mustard, egg yolk and 60g of the cheese into the bechamel sauce. Mix the sauce into the pasta and season generously with salt and pepper.

Whisk the egg white until it is stiff but not dry, then gently fold it into the macaroni mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.*

Arrange the tomato slices over the top, placing them very close together. Scatter the rest of the cheese over the tomato slices, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the inside is lightly set.

Serve with a green vegetable or a salad.

*can be prepared in advance to this point and left, covered with a cloth, for several hours.

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