Mama’s Mac & Cheese

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There are many things that we’ll never forget about our grandmother, Mama Bachmann. Besides her mental “black book” reserved for those who have scorned her, her long crooked index finger that she used to accuse you of things, her booming voice, the force with which she would smack you on the back when you made her laugh, how annoyed she got when someone phoned her during her “show”, her “boer maak a plan” attitude and her boundless love for her family, she will also always be remembered for her affinity with good food. Food is everything in our family, so naturally most of my memories of Mama are in her kitchen around the fold out dining table set with that tatty old red and white checkered tablecloth. Whenever we popped over for a visit, this table would very quickly be covered by tea, her antique sugar bowl (which I am now the proud owner of) and bits and pieces to snack on. Whether it be bacon kips or smoked mussels and tinned tuna from Fred (Mama’s corner cupboard), Kiri cheese and freshly picked baby tomatoes from the fridge, or some left overs from the freezer, there was always something to satisfy whatever your craving was. And if you timed your arrival just right, you’d be offered some of Mama’s scrumptious left over Mac & Cheese.

My gran was not very keen to hand out her recipes, probably because when she once did, we found out that Mama’s amazing home-made bread was just a shop-bought box bread mix. Well played, Mama. Well played.

My mom was lucky enough to be one of the few people trusted with Mama’s Macaroni & Cheese Recipe, which was then passed onto me at my Bridal Shower in my fabulous Hand-Made Book of personalized recipes from all my “hens”. Gold mine!

Everyone who has managed to get their hands on this recipe has developed or evolved it in different directions, depending on whether they prefer their mac & cheese dense, oozing or sticky & cheesy, plain or full of extra ingredients like spring onions or Peppadews or bacon.

I personally prefer Mac & Cheese that is packed with sweet onion & salty bacon, super cheesy and slightly saucier than the dense, eggy alternative. So this is my take on Mama’s Mac & Cheese. It’s definitely one to add to your regular Winter Warmer Recipes because you can make it in bulk, left overs can be frozen for another time, you can make it as simple and cheap, or as layered and expensive as you want, PLUS the whole family will want to dig in.

Only in winter, can this kind of decadence be guilt-free..

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Macaroni
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 large tomato (thinly sliced)
  • 2 TBSP flour or Maizena
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • dash cayenne pepper or paprika
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups grated mature cheddar cheese (1 cup for sauce, ½ – 1 cup for topping)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 pack of bacon (cut into bits)

Method:

  • Turn your oven onto 180°
  • Start boiling your macaroni until al dente with a dash of salt & some olive oil. When done, transfer from a pot to a colander. Douse with some cold water under a tap to stop the cooking process and prevent the macaroni from going stodgy & sticky. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pan, fry up the bacon and onion in some butter on medium to high heat. When done, set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel to absorb any left over oil. Retain the oil in the pan for the next step.
  • In the bacon pan, make a roux to help thicken your cheese sauce. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan on low heat, then slowly whisk in your flour so that the butter and flour properly combine. Don’t leave it unattended and keep your paste moving otherwise you will get lumps and a floury sauce later on. When you have mixed the last of the flour in, slowly whisk in the milk and bring to the boil on medium to high heat while occasionally stirring. Cook until the sauce is thickened while occasionally stirring to prevent the sauce from separating from the flour.
  • Gradually add 1 cup of grated cheese to your sauce and whisk until all melted, mix in salt & pepper to taste, then take pan off the heat.
  • Evenly distribute half the macaroni in an oven-proof dish, add half the bacon & onion and half the sauce, followed by the last of the macaroni, last of the bacon & onion, and last of the sauce.
  • Top with the rest of the grated cheese and evenly distribute tomato slices over the top.
  • Sprinkle a tiny bit of paprika or cayenne pepper over the top, and some brown sugar and salt over the tomato slices to help them caramelize

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  • Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 min, then turn onto grill for 2-5 min to crisp up the cheese and caramelize the tomatoes. Keep your eye on it – don’t let it burn.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly & set
  • Serve & enjoy!

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