Sourcing ingredients: Easy if you use ground nutmeg instead of fresh nutmeg. Which I did.
Total preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes
I was a fussy child. My staple dinner was Marmite sandwiches, white bread only. When I was forced to consume a proper meal, I would swallow the three peas I negotiated to eat like pills (complete with milk chaser). I got caught more than once trying to flush fistfuls of vegetables down the toilet. I argued that my taste-buds didn’t like vegetables. It wasn’t my fault my face didn’t like the flavour, why should I be punished by eating them? My parents, not knowing what to do with a child who refused to eat anything other than chocolate, chippies, fries and Marmite sandwiches, took me to the doctor. Was I sick? Was I dying? Did I have some sort of subconscious allergy to healthy foods? Surely I was at least malnourished? Nope. I was a perfectly healthy little girl. I later developed a sugar addiction at age nine, but that’s a different story.
When I got a bit older, my palate matured and I started to enjoy more exotic foods like meatballs (thanks Sandell family!), mince pies and macaroni cheese. My mum had this wonderful recipe for macaroni cheese that she made in the microwave. Just put all the things into a microwave proof bowl (that part is very important) and press start. After 15 minutes or so, there it was. Cooked and everything. To my child self, it was nothing short of magic. Fast forward 20 years and I’m trying something new.
Because you always start a recipe with preheating the oven, that’s what I did first. To 220 degrees celsius. Hot. Then I put the macaroni pasta on the stove to cook. If you are new to cooking pasta, I’ll walk you through it. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add pasta. Simmer for 10 minutes. Done.
While this was happening, I efficiently prepared the rest of the meal. I took all remaining ingredients and mixed them together in a bowl. Nigella says you can put everything into a food processor, but if we are being honest with each other, those things are big and clunky and a pain to clean, so I opted for the old grate the cheese and mix everything together by hand way. It worked out just fine.
Once the pasta was cooked, I drained it in a colander. Handy hint: To avoid the pasta sticking to itself and continuing to cook, rinse it under cold water for a minute or so. After returning it to the pot, I poured the cheese mixture in and stirred it through.
The Domestic Goddess recommends you choose a 25.5cm dish for the baking portion of this recipe. I was never very good at metrics, but I found one that looked about right.
According to Nigella, you should “bake in the very hot oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until it is bubbling and blistering on top”. My dish didn’t bubble or blister on top. As a result, I kept the macaroni cheese in the oven for about 25 minutes. When the macaroni started to burn, I figured the bubbling wasn’t going to happen, and took it out. I ended up with something resembling more of a quiche than macaroni cheese, which I think happened because my dish was too big. Damn you big dish.
The end result
To be totally honest, this was disappointing. I didn’t go back for seconds. Husband did, but after his second bowlful he admitted this wasn’t his favourite Nigella Meal either. We added bacon (see Mexican Scrambled Eggs review for reasoning here). It was fine, but it wasn’t the rich, cheesy, gooey mess I was hoping for. I also don’t like cheddar cheese, which is a fundamental problem right there.
Nigella calls her version of Macaroni Cheese “the shortcut version”. Maybe I did something wrong, but I’m not convinced her version is faster or tastier than my mum’s. Perhaps I’m biased. Macaroni Cheese is a comfort food and maybe only your own childhood recipe will suffice. Either way, take my review with a grain of salt. After all, I still pretend my peas are pills.