I bet that’s got you thinking hasn’t it?! Haha!!
What I want to share with you today is the meal we had tonight after a superb afternoon making music in Todmorden Park.
As you might already know I am the conductor of Todmorden Community Band, and we were playing in Todmorden Park this afternoon. We had a great time and the audience seemed to enjoy listening to our music as much as we enjoyed playing it for them.
We played from 3pm until about 5pm, so by the time we got home (after a journey of about three quarters of an hour) we were all hungry monkeys and were needing our tea. We didn’t have much in so I pulled out one of my store-cupboard favourites.
It doesn’t have a name but we know it as “that cheesy, bacon-y, pasta-y thing”, and it’s a doddle to make.
Take a pack of smoked bacon from the freezer and set to defrost in the microwave (or, as in my case, defrost it and then let half of it partially cook on the outside and leave the centre frozen solid). Boil up a huge pan of salted water for about 400g of pasta shells to feed 5 with a generous portion (or, as in my case, half a 1kg bag of pasta because I forgot it was twice the usual size and tipped far too much into the pan).
When the bacon has defrosted/partially cooked/stayed frozen in the centre cut it up into bite size pieces and fry up with the remains of a bag of mushrooms that you’ve found in the bottom of the fridge and forgotten about all week.
Bear with me, it’s far more tasty than it seems!
Leave it in the pan while you make up a pan of cheese sauce. Dead easy, especially if you follow my fail-safe method.
Ad a big slice of butter into a saucepan (the chefs will tell you 1oz of butter to 1oz of flour, but my method is far more reliable….trust me). When it has melted gently, add a tablespoon of plain flour and whisk it together. This next bit is vital – if it’s too runny or sloppy add a bit more flour, if it’s like biscuit crumbs add a bit more butter and let it melt in.
When you’re happy with the texture (it should look a bit like a dry cake batter), leave it to cook a bit until it smells like biscuits. Add milk a little at a time, whisking in between and leaving it to come back to heat. When you’ve got it to the consistency of single cream let it come fully back to heat and whisk it now and again so you can judge whether it’s thickening up or not.
Add a bowlful of grated cheese – I used Cheddar and a bit of Red Leicester today because…well you can guess can’t you?! Stir it in and season to taste.
It will need at least salt and pepper (careful with the salt depending on how salty your cheese and your bacon is) and I always add about a teaspoon of dried mustard powder for a bit of a kick.
Drain your pasta, put it into an oven proof dish with the bacon and mushrooms and mix it up gently with a couple of spoons. Pour your cheese sauce over the top and mix it again to make sure all the pasta is coated.
This is the tasty bit – add a crunchy topping to suit whatever you’ve got in the cupboard and fridge. Sometimes I’ll slice a couple of tomatoes and place those on top and then add a bit more grated cheese, and other times I’ll grate some Parmesan cheese and mix it with some breadcrumbs to sprinkle over the top. Tonight’s topping was a cracker – two packets of cheese and onion crisps, crushed and mixed with half a bowlful of Red Leicester. Tasty!!
Put the whole thing in the oven until your sauce is bubbling up again and the topping is either melted or crispy to your liking. I left mine in for 12 minutes tonight and it was superb. It might take longer if your pasta has gone cold while you make your sauce so keep an eye out. Just make sure that the sauce is bubbling up the sides and you won’t go wrong.
It took me about 45 minutes or so tonight, but I was chatting to Emma and Sam as I was cooking and Emma helped by grating me the cheese as I did the bacon and mushrooms. It took about 45 seconds to demolish the lot though!!
If you try my recipe please let me know. And if you can think of a suitable title for this dish I’d love to hear from you too.
Just the thing for a post-concert rainy Sunday evening.