Sunday, 9 December 2018

Idea for a Meatfree Monday (or Tuesday or Any other day!) - Vegetable and Macaroni Cheese

Vegetable and Macaroni cheese bubbling beautifully

Super simple, truly tasty comfort food for a winter weekend that can also be pre-made, portioned up and frozen for a quick mid-week dinner if you need it. This one is great for using up leftover root vegetables or ones that are getting slightly limp hiding away in the fridge drawer or lurking in the freezer.

This week I used leftover roast parsnips, a large carrot that was in danger of getting past-it and some defrosted cauliflower. In the past I've added spinach, broccoli, peas and even mushrooms. Just be wary that whilst mushrooms taste wonderful in this kind of bake they can turn the sauce into a slightly unappetising shade of grey/beige - definitely not for folk who eat with their eyes as well as their taste-buds! Tubey pasta of any shape works best as the sauce gets inside but I find the smaller wholemeal macaroni really adds something tasty and vaguely virtuous to the otherwise rich and cheesy deliciousness. It can also be made using leftover cooked pasta if you want.

Parsnip, carrots and cauli mixed with pasta just waiting for the sauce

This type of meal is also easily adapted for vegan eating - just add extra herbs such as thyme or parsley to the white sauce and make sure the margarine is dairy free. Oh, and leave out the cheese of course. Sacla make a really tasty vegan pesto if you want a basil hit to your sauce and there are several other makes around too if you haven't got your own basil on the windowsill.

This one was made on Friday when J was recovering from a tooth removal so is made with softer pre-cooked veg to protect the healing wound. Normally I would only par-boil the veg if using fresh stuff to give the dish a bit more "bite" but the joy of this kind of recipe is its adaptability.

Excuse the mixed measures - what I use very much depends on what I have to hand!

For a 2 pint casserole dish I used:
approx. 200g macaroni - pre-cooked to al-dente
1 large carrot chopped into small chunks and part cooked in with the pasta
approx. 150g of cooked cauliflower - make sure you squeeze all the water out of this if you have frozen it (same applies to spinach, chard or other high water content veg)
About 2 tablespoons of roasted parsnips chunks

I layered these into a casserole dish and mixed together to make sure we got mixed flavours when I served it up.

Then I made approx 1.25 pints white sauce using a roux base of:
1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour
1 tablespoon of melted sunflower margarine
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
Ground garlic

When these are all mixed together and the flour has cooked out a bit I added slowly whilst whisking:
1 500ml container of soya milk plus about 100-150ml from another one

When all this came together to make a smooth white sauce I stirred in:
Ground black pepper
1 heaped teaspoon mixed herbs
1 heaped teaspoon green pesto (the jar was open!)
approx. 150g grated strong cheddar plus an extra 25g-ish for sprinkling on top

Pour the sauce over the veg and pasta, making sure it gets down the sides and into the layers - a wooden spoon or spatula helps with this. When all the pasta and veg were covered I sprinkled the last bit of cheese on top and baked for about 30 minutes on Gas Mark 4  until top all brown and bubbly.

This makes four good-sized portions as a stand alone meal and can be served with extra cooked veg such as peas or greens or a green salad if you want to make it go further or reduce the carb load. We were happy to have this for two days in a row but I have portioned up leftovers in the past and frozen for a quick and easy home-made ready meal that can be defrosted and microwaved for lunch.

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