Crab macaroni cheese
I always think it's hard to improve on macaroni cheese but adding crab, which my mate Fiona Sims has done in her brilliant new The Boat Cookbook, is an inspired touch.
Although the cookbook is for sailors there are plenty of recipes to appeal to landlubbers like me - including a great version of pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) and a chocolate fruit cake.
Fiona writes: "Macaroni cheese is my ultimate boat comfort food – add crab and it becomes something special. A fresh, dressed crab is the best thing to use here, as it cranks up the flavour intensity, but you can use a tub of pasteurised white crabmeat, or failing that two 170g tins of white crabmeat. Serve with a crisp, green salad."
2 leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
400g macaroni, or other short pasta
150g mature Cheddar, grated
¼ tsp nutmeg, grated
1 dressed crab
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the leeks, then cover and sweat for 10 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile bring salted water to the boil in a large saucepan and cook the pasta, then drain and keep warm. Heat the grill. Add the flour to the leeks, stir to combine and cook for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking to avoid lumps, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half the cheese and all of the nutmeg and crab, then heat through and season before stirring in the cooked pasta.
Tip the lot into a shallow baking dish if you are using a boat grill (if you are cooking at home with a larger grill, any heatproof dish will work). Top with the breadcrumbs and the remaining cheese. Grill for a couple of minutes until the topping is crunchy and golden.
What to drink: I generally drink red with a mac'n'cheese (see here) but given the crab I'd go for a crisp white like a Sancerre or other Sauvignon Blanc
The Boat Cookbook: real food for hungry sailors by Fiona Sims is published by Bloomsbury. Photograph © Julian Winslow.
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