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Baked Peppadew Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I always grew up calling this mixture of pasta, milk and cheese ‘Macaroni Pie’ rather than ‘mac n cheese’ as it’s more commonly known. I still think that the distinction between the two is important: mac cheeses tend to be a gooey, non-conforming, loose  pasta dish, whereas macaroni pie due to the egg content is firmer and can be sliced in some cases.

The tradition of macaroni pie is more than present in the Deep South of the USA, it’s almost a joke to refer to mac ‘n cheese in the same breath as collard greens and candied yams.

As one of four we would fight for the crunchy corners of the pie as it rested in the glass pirex dish. I loved watching the oil and air race there way through the golden honey-comb-tunnels to the top. My mum would make several macaroni pies every week, not just for us but for friends and neighbours. As its popularity grew, she would experiment with different ingredients to enhance the flavour and texture: mayonnaise or cream was added for creaminess, breadcrumbs were mixed with the cheese for a crunchy crust. The base of the pie was always fried onion, garlic, fresh thyme with a little pepper sauce.

For this recipe, I exchanged the pepper sauce for peppadew peppers. I think I first came across this pepper whilst eating a pizza over a year a go; it’s not too dissimilar from a jalapeno pepper, but is more versatile which means it can be added to sauces, pestos or stuffed soft fillings.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese: where there is always room to reinvent the wheel. Add your own flavour and see what happens!

 

 

Baked Peppadew Mac 'n' Cheese

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Print

 

INGREDIENTS

‘Red’ sauce

2 cups dry macaroni

12 Mild Peppadew peppers

½ medium white onion

3-4 garlic cloves

4- 5 fresh thyme sprigs

½ vegetable stock jelly

Salt and pepper to taste

‘White’ Sauce

2 heaps tbsp. all purpose flour

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk

½ tsp nutmeg

2 cups grated mature cheese

‘Custard’ (optional)

1 large egg and dash of milk, whisked together

Topping

2 cups panko bread-crumbs

1/2 cup mature cheese

2-3 slices of Mild Peppadew peppers

 

METHOD:

  1. Put the Macaroni to boil in a pot of salted water. Drain and set aside when pasta is ‘al dente’.
  2. Roughly chop medium onion and peppadew peppers. Sauté in a little oil in a pan till soft
  3. Add thyme (pruning leaves from the stems) and garlic and fry gently
  4. Add vegetable stock cube, ½ cup of hot water and simmer gently for 1 -2 minutes
  5. Remove from heat and transfer to bowl.
  6. With a hand blender, roughly blend the ingredients; you don’t want a smooth paste. Taste, set aside.
  7. In another pot add the butter and flour and mix together over heat.
  8. Gradually add the milk, whisking through as the sauce thickens
  9. When all the milk has been added, add the cheese and take off heat.
  10. Keep stirring the sauce, adding the nutmeg.
  11. Then add the peppadew sauce – stir well. Taste
  12. (optional) quickly stir in the egg custard
  13. When the macaroni is cooked, drain and stir into the sauce thoroughly.
  14. Allow the pasta to rest in the sauce for a minute or two before transferring to a pirex dish for the oven
  15. Transfer to a pirex dish (fill ¾ of the way) then add a layer of panko bread crumbs, cheese and peppers
  16. Bake in the oven at 140c for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown
  17. Rest for 10 minutes before serving to allow pie to set.

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