Parsis can’t live without their meat, so my mac and cheese features chicken (and sometimes bacon if I am feeling extra indulgent). I follow the standard recipe but add in a load of shredded chicken that’s been marinated in ginger, garlic and green chillies, along with a mix of dried herbs. While making the white sauce, I don’t add any flour and, instead, just make a sauce of butter, milk, cream and cheese. Doing so means that the sauce doesn’t dry out during baking (I pop mine in the oven to get that delicious, crisp layer of browned cheese on top) and you still get a moist mac and cheese when you bite into it.
My boyfriend loves mac and cheese and I make it for him really often. The thing is, he loves the full-fat version—lots of cheese… the works! To make it a little healthier, I secretly cut down on the amount of cheese I use, but do so without compromising on taste. I use great quality, sharp cheddar—the sharpest I can find. The stronger the cheese, the less you have to use! I also use great parmesan but, instead of putting it in the sauce, I put more of it on top of the final dish, so it tastes stronger. This way, I’ve used less cheese but my boyfriend hasn’t a clue! The only thing I can’t get away with? Substituting the béchamel with cauliflower puree, which I do when I’m making the dish for myself. That and using whole wheat pasta.
Tarika’s tip: Use garlic powder in the béchamel for a stronger garlic flavouring.
Living away from home for the last three years, there are days when I get really homesick, and mac and cheese always comes to the rescue. But one day, I was feeling a bit experimental and remembered the heaps of sambar powder I had brought back with me from my last visit to Bangalore. It may sound odd, but I decided to make a South Indian version of the great mac and cheese. I used the sambar gravy instead of regular cheese sauce and topped it with potato crisps, herbs and, of course, lots of cheese. It tasted a lot like the typical Kannadiga bisi bele bath but with cheese! It was total comfort food and just what I needed that evening!
Since I am a lazy cook, I’ve devised a microwave version of mac and cheese. I first cook the elbow pasta in a bowl of water in the microwave. Once the pasta is cooked, I add milk, chopped and grated cheese, and the pasta into a mug. I pop this back into the microwave for an additional minute. The result is a gooey, cheesy, microwave meal for one! Top with paprika or oregano for more flavour. I sometimes add chopped, leftover sausages for a meaty twist.