Spinach and Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Or as it’s also known, clean the fridge out mac ‘n’ cheese. Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s new mantra for home cooking, we raided our food supplies to discover what we had lying around to make dinner. My wife hit on the idea of mac ‘n’ cheese with mushrooms and spinach. Add in smoked cheeses that had been maturing for a while and we had ourselves a fantastic side dish.


Spinach & Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Time
25-30 mins prep
35-40 mins cook
Difficulty
Easy
Servings
8-10 servings
Serve with
Reverse seared ribeye steak
Wine match
Oaked Chardonnay
 

An Overloaded Pantry and Jamie Oliver

In a recent TV interview with Graham Norton, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver explained the ethos behind his latest book (7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week). The idea is a simple one … most households have common ingredients lingering in the larder, pantry or fridge. Jamie’s approach is to take said ingredients that we already have at home and combine them into some delicious, simple meals.

It’s a great concept. Quite often, we have things left over after a weekend of cooking. So armed with Jamie’s idea and unused ingredients, we created this delicious mac ‘n’ cheese recipe.

Equipment

  • Large saucepans
  • Frying pan
  • Colander
  • Shallow casserole dish with lid
  • Sharp knife
  • Chopping board
  • Scales
  • Measuring jug and spoons

Frying mushrooms in oil

Stirring in the spinach

Ready to be baked in the oven

Ingredients

In this recipe I used some Mexicana cheese from Waitrose. This is similar to Red Leicester, with some chilli and spices in it. If you can’t find this (or don’t like the idea of chilli in cheese) simply use more Red Leicester.

  • 500g smoked cheddar
  • 200g smoked Red Leicester
  • 150g Mexicana cheese
  • 250g soft cream cheese
  • 75g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large mozarella ball
  • 500g dried macaroni
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 350ml milk
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 200g spinach
  • Salt and pepper

I used cheddar and Red Leicester that had been smoked over whiskey oak and sealed for a month. Check out my guide to smoking your own cheese at home for more information on this. If you don’t have the facility to smoke cheeses, simply use non-smoked.

Cheeses smoking in a Big Green Egg (library pic)

Method

I cooked this in the kitchen oven. It can just as easily be cooked in a ceramic oven such as a Big Green Egg, adding a smoking chunk for extra flavour.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/320°F.
  2. Cook the pasta and leave this to cool. Whilst this is cooling, drain and shred the mozarella. Grate the remaining cheeses, finely grating the parmesan. Quarter the mushrooms. Set aside two handfuls of cheddar and all of the parmesan for the topping.
  3. Wash the spinach and shake dry. Put it in a bowl and microwave it for 3 mins (or in a pan on a stove). Wrap it up in kitchen towel to remove further moisture.
  4. In a frying pan, add a little olive oil and pan fry the quartered mushrooms.
  5. Pour the milk into a large pan, add the bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream, sour cream and cream cheese, stir it all together. Place on the stove over medim heat, add the non-topping cheeses a little at a time and combine together.
  6. Once all the cheese is in and the cheese sauce has been created, add in the spinach and mushrooms. Stir these into the sauce. If the sauce is too runny, add some cornflour mixed with milk to thicken.
  7. Gently add the macaroni and very gently stir into the sauce so as to not break the macaroni. Once this is all combined, carefully decant into the casserole dish.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining grated chedder and parmesan on top of the casserole dish contents. Add more grated cheddar if necessary to ensure that the mixture is covered.
  9. Place the cover on the casserole dish, transfer to the oven and bake for 20 mins.
  10. Using heat-resitant gloves, remove the cover from the casserole dish. Raise the oven temperature to 180°C/355°F. and bake for a further 15-20 mins, or until the top is a golden brown colour.

Spinach and mushroom mac 'n' cheese ready to eat

Hints and Tips

  1. When cooking the macaroni, add 1 tbsp of oil to the water as it is boiling to stop the macoroni from sticking.
  2. The recipe makes a thick mac ‘n’ cheese. If you prefer yours a little runny, omit the thickening step with the cornflour.
  3. This can be upped a notch by adding in some cooked smoked bacon when adding the spinach and mushrooms. This stops it being a vegetarian menu, of course.
  4. This can be stored in the fridge for 3 days and re-heated in a microwave.

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