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Mac'n'Cheese with Cauliflower & Crunchy Hazelnut Crumb


Rainy, cold winters days call out for heart and belly warming food. With the rainy weather set in, it was finally the perfect time to whip up a batch of something baked and cheesy... some real soul food.

While lost in my dinner thoughts, I came across a bit of a foodie first world conundrum... I felt like two different baked cheesy meals and didn’t know which I wanted more! What on earth could I do?

We all know that Mac n Cheese is one of those winter meals that satisfies many a chilly days craving. There’s no denying that, but who can resist the deliciousness of baked Cauliflower Cheese?

Not me!

So instead of picking just one for our meal, I decided to combine both into an even more delicious dish. So here we now have my super tasty Mac n Cheese with Cauliflower and Crunchy Hazelnut Crumb.

Yummo!

MAC'N'CHEESE WITH CAULIFLOWER AND CRUNCHY HAZELNUT CRUMB

INGREDIENTS

1 packet penne pasta, cooked slightly less than al dente and set aside to drain (we used San Remo brand)

3 rashers of bacon, skin removed and chopped

1/2 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped

150g butter

3 tablespoons plain flour

4.5 cups milk

2.5 cups grated cheddar cheese

1.5 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

3 stale pieces of bread roughly torn

Olive oil

1/3 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

METHOD

1. Preheat a fan forced oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. BACON - Add chopped bacon to a cold fry pan. Place on the stove over a medium heat.

As the pan heats the fat will render from the bacon to help with cooking it. There’s no need for adding additional fat.

Cook, stirring occasionally till cooked and some pieces are going crispy.

Remove from heat and set aside.

3. CHEESE SAUCE - heat a large saucepan on the stove over a medium heat. Add the butter.

When melted sprinkle in the flour and quickly stir together with a wooden spoon.

Stir to eliminate lumps and allow it to ‘cook off’ for about a minute.

NOTE This will ensure the flour cooks so you don’t have that awful raw floury taste to your final product.

Add the milk next, starting with 1.5 cups and using a whisk to combine.

Waiting till it comes to a boil and thickens, before adding the rest of the milk a cup at a time and repeating the process (whisk, boil and thicken).

The white sauce base is ready when it’s a thick cream/thin custard consistency.

Season to taste.

Add the cheddar and half of the Parmesan.

Whisk into the white sauce mix until melted and combined.

Turn off the stove and remove the Cheese Sauce from the heat.

4. Add the cauliflower and fold through the Cheese Sauce.

Add the bacon to this mixture and again fold together well.

5. Put the cooked drained penne into a large baking dish. Pour the Cheese Sauce mixture over the pasta and gently stir together. Disperse evenly across the baking dish and place in the oven to bake for 20-30 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden on top.

Remove from the oven.

6. CRUNCHY HAZELNUT CRUMB - Combine the torn bread, salt, pepper, remaining Parmesan cheese, half of the parsley and the hazelnuts in a bowl.

Toss together with your hands. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss again to coat.

Sprinkle the crumb mix over the Mac n Cheese and place back in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the crumb is golden.

6. Remove the bake from the oven to cook for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle some extra fresh chopped parsley over the top, serve and enjoy!

WINE SUGGESTION

Find yourself a ‘new world’ Chardonnay for this one guys. We were lazy and simply drank the rest of an opened bottle of red. It was nice, but definitely didn’t ‘match’!

The rich creamy cheesiness of the Mac’n’Cheese will work perfectly with a delicious chardy.

Trust me when I say you really shouldn’t hate all chardonnays based on your first taste all those years ago.

Chardonnay really is like that kid you had no time for back in high school (mostly because you were probably an hormonal asshole/teenage dirtbag! Am I right!? I am aren’t I?!); time has passed, we’ve all grown up, matured and if you met again, you’d realise they are overflowing with amazing qualities. Ones that you once overlooked and would now appreciate on a whole new level.

The aim of my long winded analogy? Treat chardy the same... fabulous in its own right.

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People who love to eat

are always the best people.

- Julia Child