This post comes a week later than planned, and regular readers might have noticed that I was missing in action last week. The week started with a fun trip to Bloemfontein and a food demonstration (look out for another blog post about this next week) but quickly went downhill after that as I returned home to two sick children as well as having a nasty bout of flu myself! So unfortunately my regular schedule went out of the window, but I am happy to report that aside from a few lingering symptoms things are on the up for team Ulyate!
Here we are in the thick of winter, the perfect season for gathering the family indoors and around the table for a home cooked meal. My mind conjures up romantic images of myself, dear hubby and the children gathering calmly at our dining room table and enjoying a peaceful meal whilst smiling and reminiscing over the day's events. In reality it is a rather different picture.
Not only must I prepare a meal that agrees with each diner’s specifics tastes but it is best that it be delivered to the table at the perfect eating temperature and with the approved crockery (“the pink plate, mum!”) and favourite condiments. Do not forget to factor in the time needed to herd little ones to the table after getting them to wash their hands, and then fielding complaints about the lack of cheese on top of the meal (“but darling, those are carrot sticks”). If we are lucky everyone stays seated for the duration of the meal and no-one is injured by a piece of cutlery that has been launched across the table. After the meal it is time to roll out the housekeeping trolley for the mammoth clean up operation.
With two littlies in the house, it is always exciting to add another dish to the "meals that everyone will eat" list. Mac and cheese is easy and always popular, but I wanted to jazz it up a bit and add some extra flavours to the meal. Here I have added bacon, because bacon. The tomatoes add a touch of sweetness and sharpness, and the fact that I have snuck a bit of broccoli into the mix (albeit completely coated in cheese sauce) is a nice little nutritional bonus.
I will continue to day dream of that perfect dinner, remind myself that this is just a phase and when all else fails, come to the table armed with a good handful of grated cheese!
BACON and BROCCOLI
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
200g streaky bacon, cut into chunks
200g fresh or frozen broccoli florets
pinch of salt
2 large tomatoes thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
For the cheese sauce:
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Step 1.) Preheat your oven to 190°C. Start heating a large pot of water on the stove.
Step 2.) Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic and cook gently to soften. Add the bacon and fry until just cooked. Set aside.
Step 3.) Steam or boil the broccoli florets until tender but not mushy. Allow to cool for a few minutes before chopping up roughly. Set aside.
Step 4.) Once the pot of water is boiling add a pinch of salt and the macaroni. Cook until al dente, then drain.
Step 5.) Make the cheese sauce while the macaroni is cooking. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk for a minute on the heat. Take the saucepan off the heat and gradually whisk in the milk. Return the pan to the stove and heat while whisking until the sauce has thickened slightly (it will still have a pouring consistency). Take the saucepan off the heat again, add the grated cheese and whisk until smooth.
Step 6.) Tip half of the cooked macaroni into a large casserole or baking dish. Add half of the bacon, broccoli and cheese sauce and toss gently to combine. Add the remaining macaroni, bacon, broccoli and cheese sauce and mix gently.
Step 7.) Arrange the tomato slices on top and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.