Many things taste like home to me. I love pizza (although that is technically Italian), pancakes, cupcakes, Pop Tarts, pecan pie, ice cream, and Tex-Mex (yes, it is Mexican but with a USA twist). But, it is hard to find these American things in the UK that are authentic. If I do manage to discover a restaurant that serves genuine American food, it usually costs a lot! So, to get a quick hit of Americanness, I resort to an oldie, but a goodie.
Mac & Cheese
I make this 2 ways. The first method is most similar to what I grew up eating as a kid. One of the easiest meals for a busy single mom to make was Kraft mac and cheese. Boil the pasta, throw in some butter and milk, add the packet of powdered cheese, and boom! Instant delicious meal. I would only eat it with cut up hot dogs. Heaven in a box. Kraft is not widely sold in the UK, when it does occasionally pop up in Tesco, it costs a fortune! I paid $7 for a big box once, but I was desperate.
My solution is simple. When I am in America, I buy 10-15 boxes of mac and cheese. (Not always Kraft, sometimes it has to be store brand, but I’m buying in bulk so I have to save $) Next, I open all the boxes and remove the powdered packets. Finally, I give the left over pasta to my mom, and take the powder cheese packs to England. Macaroni tastes the same no matter where you buy it, and this way I save space in my luggage.
The first time my partner had Kraft mac and cheese, they were extremely wary. For two reasons; they had never seen powdered cheese before, and they had never seen pasta turn orange as Kraft mac tends to do. However, after their initial shock, it is now a much beloved quick meal in our house.
The second method I utilize to make mac and cheese is more traditional. When I couldn’t find box mac, I had to improvise for a mini dinner party I was holding (everyone knows pasta is the cheapest way to host meals at university). So, for the first time ever, I had to make mac and cheese from scratch. (The irony of how my first home made mac and cheese occurred in England is not lost on me) Unfortunately, all the recipes I found online were designed to be made in America, with American cheese and ingredients. British cheddar cheese and American cheddar cheese are two very different things. After a lot of attempts, I finally found a combination of cheese and spices that make an accurate dish of comfort American mac and cheese. The recipe is below. This dish is adored by all of my friends, and my partner asks for it on a weekly basis. I make it for any big group gathering, because it is both cheap and easy to make in large quantities. Plus, the UK has nothing that tastes similar to a dish of mac and cheese.
Indigo’s American Mac and Cheese (Made in England)
2 tablespoons of flour
Leister Cheese (like American yellow cheddar)
Mozzarella cheese (to give the desired stringy effect)
Sharp Cheddar Cheese (for a kick)
Bacon (optional but highly recommended!)
Boil your Macaroni, to enhance the flavor add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. While pasta is boiling, dice and fry your bacon in a pan (the crispier the better in my opinion). Once the bacon is cooked through, put it aside, but save the grease. In a pot, add some butter (I go with 2-3 big spoon full’s), milk (around 1 cup) and the rest of the bacon grease (for flavor). Once that has melted and combined, add your flour to give the sauce thickness. The last step is to add all your grated cheese! I usually start off with the cheddar cheese, then add leister and finally a small amount of mozzarella (to much makes it overly stringy and messy). I have no exact measurement for anything, I guesstimate based on who I am feeding. After all the cheese has melted, add it to your drained macaroni pasta, as well as the crispy bacon. Stir it all together, then pour the mixture into a casserole pan. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top, then put it into the oven at 350 F/180 C for roughly 20 minutes. I leave it in until the cheese on top is brown and crispy.