RECIPE: THE ULTIMATE MACARONI CHEESE - GUARANTEED TO LIFT THE SPIRITS!

Macaroni & Cheese, even the words are guaranteed to make you feel better inside. But it comes in so many versions. From those old tins of ready-made heat-in-the-saucepan type, to the ready meal bung-in-the-microwave version but it really is such a simple thing to make yourself and, you know what, it tastes much, much better. Over the years I've done a lot of experimenting and tweaking to get the best Mac & Cheese possible and, by combining little details from probably half a dozen different recipes, I think I've hit on perfection. Not too sticky but oh-so chompy, gorgeous, tasty, comforting, perfect Mac & Cheese. The perfect comfort food, the ultimate tv dinner. Oh, and since it's all about quick and easy, I've worked in a few shortcuts too. But, if you really want to do everything yourself, feel free to grate your own cheese and use fresh herbs.

Ingredients to serve four people for dinner.

300g macaroni

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme leaves (if using fresh, chopped finely)

3 small shallots, finely chopped

100g breadcrumbs

50g butter

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 tsp mustard powder

pinch of nutmeg

200ml milk of your choice (I use skimmed)

150ml single cream

200g mix of grated mozzarella and cheddar (from a supermarket bag)

50g dolcelatte, chopped up into rough cubes



Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) GM6 - reducing a touch for a fan-assisted oven


Cook macaroni per instructions on packet, but under-cooking slightly. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large, but not huge, pan. Gently fry thyme leaves and shallots. 

Add flour, nutmeg and mustard powder to pan and keep stirring until everything is blended together. Mix together milk and cream and gradually, stirring constantly, add milky mixture to the pan. If you end up with lumps (this can happen if you add too quickly, or don't stir carefully enough), just take off the heat and use a whisk to beat them out. Once properly blended, turn up the heat and boil for two minutes to thicken the sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually, stirring all the time, add two-thirds of the cheese. One this is blended quite well season to taste with salt and pepper. Add this to the pasta and mix together. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.