Citrus and Candy’s Weekend Medical Report:
Symptoms: Gloomy, grey autumn weather. Cold chills and rain. Frazzled hair. Cranky pants.
Diagnosis: Early onset of Winter Blues.
Treatment: Warming, hearty food of the naughtiest kind. Make sure that it is lovingly prepared and greedily scoffed while donning your most glamorous trackie dacks*.
*Glamorous = the ones with a trademark hole in the crotch/bum area or the saggy ones in the sexy shade of grey melange.
Prescription: A creamy, dreamy Macaroni, Cheese and Pumpkin Bake. Its voluptuous looks are soothing to the eye while an injection of that mornay sauce is comfort at its best. Even the squelchy sounds that the macaroni makes against your cutlery is aurally therapeutic. It’s pretty much a humble Mac ‘n’ Cheese but with a glorious orangey Valentino-esque fake tan and it’s so so good.
Dosage: Take often as needed with a glass of wine (optional) and trashy TV viewing (essential).
Not recommended for: people on diets or with cholesterol-related health issues (warning – I make no apologies for the trashiness of this dish). People who are afraid of cream, cheese, butter and carbs.
If symptoms still persist: Please come back to see me for a more intensive treatment of the sugary kind.
Macaroni, Cheese and Pumpkin Bake
Mornay sauce adapted from this recipe.
Quarter of Kent pumpkin (approx. 600g in weight)
1 Tbl of thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
70g plain flour
2 egg yolks
200g Gruyère, roughly grated **
50g fresh Parmesan, roughly grated **
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Breadcrumbs to coat the surface* or extra grated cheese (your choice)
* For garlic and parsley crumbs, whizz some dried breadcrumbs, panko or slices of stale bread with a clove of garlic and a handful of parsley until finely ground and combined.
** Feel free to substitute with whatever cheese you like stinky or non-stinky. Think gorgonzola, sharp cheddar, fontina etc. To substitute for Gruyère, try Emmentaler, Jarlsberg or any other melty semi-firm Swiss cheese (all quite safe for a stinky-cheese-phobe like me).
Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and chop into 3cm chunks. Lay out the chopped pumpkin on a baking paper lined roasting tin, scatter thyme leaves over, lightly drizzle with olive oil and season with a little sea salt and black pepper.
Roast pumpkin for approximately 30 minutes or until tender and cooked. Set aside and increase the oven temperature to 220°C.
In the meantime, warm up the milk in a pot with the bay leaves until simmering. Remove from heat, discard bay leaves and set aside.
Combine butter and flour in a separate saucepan, stir continuously over medium heat until it comes together as a smooth dough and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking continuously until smooth and incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Remove from heat, stir through the egg yolks, the grated cheeses and nutmeg until completely combined. Season to taste with salt and ground white pepper (but make sure to do it after you add the cheeses). If not using straight away, cover the surface with clingwrap or baking paper to stop a skin from forming.
Cook the macaroni according to your packet’s instructions until it’s just al dente (do not overcook as it’ll cook further in the oven and nobody likes a soggy pasta right?). Drain well and keep warm until ready to use.
Mix the macaroni with the cheesy sauce and fold through the cooked pumpkin. If you’ve cooked it soft enough, the pumpkin will start to break down into a pulp and mix through to make a beautifully orangey cheese sauce. If not, then chunks of pumpkin throughout the macaroni are also equally tasty :)
Top with breadcrumbs or extra grated Gruyère/Parmesan and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and burnished.
Serve with salad greens if you wish.