It is day 368 of the lockdown.
Toilet paper and pasta are the new shares. Who needs mortgages if you have cheese, right?!
I’ve been quiet lately. Reasons?
I changed jobs – working in the pastry department of a large organic retailer was limiting my skill set too much and I got bored. December, January and parts of February I spent going for interviews, trial shifts (what is it in the hospitality industry that you don’t get paid for your time?!) and finally for endless document copying for my DBS check. On March 1st I started as a Senior Chef de Partie at a privat boarding school and my commute went from 4h a day to roundabout half an hour. I was (and still am) ecstatic. I’m working with a slightly more mature team, no-one feels the need to prove themselves by being misogynistic idiots, everyone can cook, the first three weeks were amazing with me finally having a normal rhythm, cooking my heart out and soaking up new things and techniques like a happy little sponge.
And then Boris Johnson declared (rightly so) the lockdown. Again, I thought I can use this “free time” with improving my cooking, finishing my degree and updating my blog. And then within a week me and my husband both caught Covid-19. That was in the last week of March and we both are finally feeling a bit more human, my husband Dave has his taste and appetite back and I am enjoying cooking again.
Finally here an easy and wonderful staple food, both in a vegan and an omnivore version: Mac & Cheese.
When I moved here, I never had Mac&Cheese before, it’s just not a German thing and growing up we very rarely went to restaurants or eating out, so I kind of missed it entirely. Anyway, for this you need:
Vegan (per portion)
- 100g dry maccaroni (egg free)
- approx. 500ml water
- 150 ml almond milk
- 50g vegan cheese (for example grated “cheese” from Waitrose)
- 1 clove of garlic
- thyme, fresh or dried
- lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 1 tablespoon of margerine
- 1/2 an onion
- a pinch of nutmeg
Cut the onion and the garlic into small cubes. Grate the lemon zest and remove the thyme from the stem. Heat the water in a small pot, add salt. This is your pasta water. Heat the margerine in another pot, add the onion, garlic and the thyme. When the onion is nice and golden, add the flour and stir continiously. You will get something that looks like big breadcrumbs, but don’t let it burn. Once the smell intensifies and you can smell lots of butter, add the almond milk and the nutmeg. Stir well, until you got rid of all the lumps. Reduce the temperature and let it thicken. If it gets to thick, just add more almond milk. Once your pasta water is boiling, add the pasta. Have a look at the package and set a timer for the recommended time -3 minutes. My maccaroni want 9-10 minutes, so I set my timer to 6-7 minutes. Add the lemon zest, salt, pepper and maybe a bit more thyme to your cheese sauce and add a few spoons of the pasta water. You should have a slightly liquid, yet not watery sauce. Once your timer goes off, put your pasta into a sieve and immediately add it to the sauce, wet as it is and with parts of the pasta water. Stir well and turn up the temperature. Add half of the vegan cheese. Now let your pasta cook the remaining three minutes of its cooking time in the sauce. The pasta should soak up all the remaining liquid. Try again and season accordingly. Add the rest of the cheese. Now, I prefer to stir in the cheese, my husband likes the cheese slightly crisped up. Depending on what you like, you can either stir in the remaining cheese or put the entire pot / bowl under the grill of your oven. The grated vegan cheese I mentioned crisps up nicely. Enjoy. (In this particular picture I also used grated vegan parmesan, also waitrose)
The non vegan version follows the same priciple, you just use the following ingredients.
- 2 slices of smoked bacon or bacon lardons
- 150 ml of milk
- 60 g of cheese, I used leftover blue cheese and mature cheddar (and in this particular photo a healthy amount of parmesan)
The cooking process is exactly the same, but make sure you crisp up your bacon nicely, cut it in cubes and fry it at a high temperature.
There we go, staple food par exellence.
Enjoy and stay safe!