Chocolate Never Disapppoints

The thing about keeping up with social media is that you tend to go through everything you wrote or uploaded in the past decade or so. While things I’ve written in my adolescence have since been buried, I think I only grew up in the last three years or so.

I used to write a lot. I wrote my heart out. I wrote my mind out. Writing kept me sane and my mind vibrant. I was always on a verbal diarrhoea. Writing was my way of communicating, even as a child. I was always told to keep my mouth shut, so I turned to writing. As I grew older however, I learned to keep quiet – even in my writing.

You see, I discovered photography. I discovered that life will always be throwing rotten lemons and tomatoes at you. I realised that no one really gives a hoots ass about what you have to say. Whatever struggles or cause you’re fighting for, there will be others who say you’re in no position to say the things you write about. I just gave up with writing because I could not deal with the naysayers.

Photographs, on the other hand, are amazing. They say a picture says a thousand words, which means with all of my photos combined, I would have published 10 papers or perhaps 3 novels. In another life, I could be a children’s book author if I had not been told that my stories were too wild, imaginative and far fetched without a local context (this happened to me when I was eight). In another life I could have been a journalist, if I had not been told that I don’t fit the bill as one. In another life, I would not have been the me I am today.

Perhaps I will continue disappointing those around me, or maybe I was meant for the thug life. Nothing good ever comes easy, am I right? I’m far from the success I want for myself. It’s not fair for someone else to tell me that I’m done and or that I should slow down. I will walk even faster, run if I must (though I literally hate running), just to prove a point that nothing good ever comes easy, and that time truly heals all wounds.

Just when we think we’ve figured things out, the universe throws us a curveball. So we have to improvise. We find happiness in unexpected places. We find our way back to the things that matter the most. The universe is funny that way. Sometimes it just has a way of making sure we wind up exactly where we belong.

– Grey’s Anatomy

I do find happiness in unexpected places. Some places, morbid. Others, bright and cheery. Whatever curveball the universe sends to me, I’ll be ready in a heartbeat.

Very Fudgy Chocolate Muffins

Adapted from Bright Eyed Baker

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Ingredients

2 cups plain flour

1 cup natural cocoa powder, sifted

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)

1 1/2 cups sour cream (I used 1 1/2 cups milk with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

10 1/2 ounces chocolate chips and/or chopped chocolate (I didn’t measure the amount of chocolates I used!)

Method

  1. Beat oil, sugar and vanilla together till fluffy.
  2. Add in eggs and yolk, gradually.
  3. Add in all the dry ingredients except for the chocolates, and alternate with the sour cream.
  4. Beat until well combined.
  5. Add in chocolate chips and mix well.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Serve with ice cream!
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Biscotti

Ever since I came back from Daylesford three weeks ago, I’ve been inspired to do a bit more baking and cooking in the kitchen. You see, I’ve been busy taking wedding and portrait photos that I lost touch on the very reason I picked up a camera – food. I used to make magic in the kitchen all the time. Now that I’m busy working, and the fact that I photograph food for Halalfoodhunt all the time, my kitchen skills got a bit rusty.

Thank god I still know my way around the kitchen. I scavenged my pantry and found enough things for me to make these. Here’s a quick biscotti recipe I adapted from here that’s great with coffee or some warm milk.

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  • 113 grams butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups self rising flour
  • half cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 200 grams dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet or sheet pan.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar, until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and beat well.
  4. Add flour to butter mixture and mix until incorporated.
  5. Divide  the dough in half and shape each half into a 9inch by 2 inch log.  The mixture will be quite sticky so wet your hands with cold water for easier handling.
  6. Place logs several inches apart.  The logs will spread, so allow 2-3 inches between logs.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and cool logs for 5 minutes.  Move logs to a wire rack to cool further, about 10-15 minutes.
  9. Slice the logs, using a serrated knife.
  10. Place the slices cut side down onto an ungreased cookie sheet or sheet pan.
  11. Bake 5 minutes, turn the slices to the other cut side and bake for 5 more minutes.
  12. Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.
  13. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler.
  14. Dip half of the biscotti lengthwise into the chocolate.
  15. Serve with hot coffee or warm milk.
  16. Keep in the fridge as our tropical climate is bad for the chocolate!

Sambal Belado

 

When it comes to food, my family would know best. I grew up with home cooked meals made with love by my mother and nanny. I would often come home from school being able to smell whatever my mother was cooking a level away from home. It still puzzles my mum how I can detect what she was cooking just from smelling the beautiful aromas of onion, garlic and a plethora of spices. I might have picked up cat genes from hanging out too much with my three furballs.

Sambal belado is a typical Minang sambal served often with fried fish or fried chicken. It’s something I would consider a cross between a chutney and a salsa – except that this sambal is not for the faint hearted. The combination of spicy, sweet, salty and sour creates a burst of umami flavours in your mouth. Well, to me that is what makes a sambal really syiok. I really hate it when I eat sambals that only look red but aren’t potent enough for my tastebuds. My mother thinks my tastebuds have gone haywire because my tolerance for spiciness is beyond crazy.

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The anatomy of a sambal.

Three weeks ago, my mother left for a holiday Down Under. I was left home alone with my cats. I thought I would rejoice at the thought of freedom and independence, but apparently my appetite and tastebuds were screaming for my mother. Missing Malay food – not wait – missing Malay food cooked by my mum proved that I was actually missing her. I rarely eat Malay food when I’m eating out unless there isn’t a choice. So I woke up one morning with a huge craving for ayam belado only to find out that the stash my mum freezes were all gone. I had no where to go. I had to pluck up the courage and cook myself some sambal belado. After cross-referring to a few recipes online and a god-sent phone call from my mother, this is my take on her famous sambal belado.

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Ayam Goreng Sambal Belado

Ingredients:

500g fresh red chillies

200g fresh red bird’s eye chillies

2 medium sized red onions

1 bulb of garlic

1 inch of fresh ginger

2 stalks of lemongrass

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Method:

  1. Wash and cute both types of chillies into chunks.
  2. In a food processor, blitz the chillies coarsely. You want them to be roughly chopped. Set aside.
  3. Peel and wash red onions. Blitz the onions in the food processor. Again, you want them to be roughly chopped. Set aside.
  4. Peel garlic and ginger. Cut them into chunks and blitz them into a fine paste using a food processor. You may add a bit of water into the mixture so that it blends into a smooth paste.
  5. In a wok, heat oil on a medium heat.
  6. Sauté roughly chopped onions until fragrant. Add in ginger and garlic paste and sauté until it has thicken a bit.
  7. Add in chillies and lemongrass and continue to fry.
  8. Add in salt, lemon juice and sugar and continue to fry until the sambal has thicken and the oil starts to get red. This pecah minyak process would take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Do not leave the sambal unattended. Continue stir occasionally until it is cooked.
  10. Serve with freshly fried chicken or fish on a bed of white rice.

Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcakes

Lately, there has been a craze for kampung cupcakes in Singapore. Furthermore, since Halalfoodhunt has been running for the past six months, people have been coming to me to ask for such kampung cupcake recipes. Alright, let pause for a while and allow me to explain what kampung cupcakes are.

Kampung cupcakes are cupcakes inspired by flavours of traditional Malay kuih such as ondeh-ondeh, kuih talam, putri salad and many more.

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When I first discovered about kampung cupcakes, I was apprehensive about making them. As much as I appear to be modern and all, I still love my traditional Malay kuih the way they are. Then, I succumbed to peer pressure and relented. I had to try making this ondeh-ondeh cupcake, especially since Fluffbakery keeps having their sold out. I totally winged this recipe. I made minor adjustments to a vanilla cupcake recipe, and basically followed my gut. So before I forget the recipe (I have a habit of not taking note of my recipes), here it is.

Feedback from my friends is that the taste of coconut is not overpowering, and the infusion of gula melaka and real pandan extract makes you forget you’re eating a cupcake. I hope this recipe will work fine for you!

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Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcake

makes 12 cupcakes

Real Pandan Extract

1 huge bunch of pandan leaves, cut into smaller pieces

1/2 cup water

  • Blend the pandan leaves and water together in a blender.
  • Strain the pandan juice through a fine sieve, or a cheesecloth if you prefer.
  • Squeeze out as much juice as you possibly can.

Pandan Cupcake

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups caster sugar

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons real pandan extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg.
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt through a fine sieve. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add flour mixture, alternating with milk and the pandan extract.
  6. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl and beat for another minute or two until the batter is well incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter equally into a muffin tin that has been lined with cupcake liners.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Ensure that the cupcakes are cooled down to room temperature before you core and fill them.

Pandan gula melaka filling

200g gula melaka, cut into smaller pieces

150ml water

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

  1. In a pan, add the water to the gula melaka and let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes, or until all the sugar has been dissolved and the sugar solution thickens.
  2. Let cool to room temperature before adding the desiccated coconut and mix it well.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup desiccated coconut

  1. Beat whipping cream with sugar and vanilla on medium high until stiff peaks.
  2. Gently fold in the desiccated coconut into the cream.
  3. To assemble, core the cupcakes, then fill in with the filling and pipe the coconut whip cream on top as desired.

The Perfect New York Cheesecake

I’ve made a few cheesecakes in my life. Some of them dry and heavy, others too sweet and tangy. Yesterday, I made the perfect New York Cheesecake. It came out with a beautiful flat top, no cracks and a perfect height for my liking. I was almost in tears.

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I realised the secret was a lot of patience. All in all, a cheesecake is very easy to make. It is how you bake it that makes a difference. I’ve tried making cheesecakes with and without a water bath, and at different temperatures. After watching a few YouTube videos, I finally found the perfect method. I was jittery throughout the 2 hours the cake was in the oven so I had to force myself to keep calm and watch an episode or two of Orange is the New Black on my laptop. But trust me. It was worth it.

This is probably the only recipe I know by hard because it’s actually my sister’s recipe. Hehe perks of being bullied into helping them I suppose.

New York Cheesecake

200g chocolate digestives (I used the ones from Marks and Spencers)

80g melted butter

3 packs of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened to room temperature)

200ml Bulla Premium Sour Cream (you can use light sour cream too)

1 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

juice from half a lemon

3 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blitz the digestives in a food processor. Add the melted butter and mix well. Press the biscuit base into the base of the spring-form pan to form a crust of about 1 centimetres. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar till fluffy, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in vanilla essence and lemon juice.
  4. Gradually add eggs, one at a time and be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to mix everything well.
  5. Add in sour cream and give the batter one last mix.
  6. Before pouring the batter into the spring form pan, wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. This will prevent any leakages or any water from the water bath leaking into the pan.
  7. Place the spring form pan in a bigger baking pan. Fill the bigger pan with hot water.
  8. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring form pan. Make the top as neat and smooth as possible. Cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour. After an hour, continue to bake but remove the aluminium foil on top. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the top has a nice brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  10. DO NOT TAKE THE CAKE OUT OF THE OVEN. Switch off the oven, and leave the door of your oven slightly ajar by placing a wooden spoon to keep it open. Leave it in the oven for another 45 minutes. This will prevent the cake from cracking due to the sudden change in temperature.
  11. Take the cake out and remove from water bath and let it cool for another 2 hours before placing in the fridge overnight.
  12. Cake is best served chill with coffee on the side. Enjoy!

Beef Stew with Focaccia

It’s day 9 of Ramadhan and somehow I’ve taken over my mum’s kitchen for good. I’m enjoying this gap year very much – taking photos, cooking, experimenting with new recipes, traveling – basically doing a lot of what I love. I’ve lasted seven months of freelancing thus far and life seems great right now. Alhamdulillah, the doors of rizq (wealth/earnings – there doesn’t seem to be an apt English word for it) are always open. I cannot thank Him enough for His bountiful blessings on me and my family.

I have been cooking a lot this Ramadhan, except for the days I am forced to iftar outside, I’m practically in the kitchen. It helps that HalalFoodHunt lets me hone my photography skills and develop recipes from the comforts of my home. If you’re wondering what this HalalFoodHunt is, click on it and check it out. You won’t regret it, well, unless you’re still fasting at this time of the day ’cause all you’ll see are food, food and more food.

This is my first time making this stew, and I’m pretty stoked by the results. I read up on a few recipes, mainly Jamie Oliver’s, Nigella as well as At Home with Magnolia Bakery. Since I’ve been under-utilizing my cookbooks, I forced myself to use the one from Magnolia Bakery. I altered the recipe here and there in terms of method but the ingredients are pretty much the same. The recipe calls for red wine but for obvious reasons, I switched it with chicken stock instead. I served the stew with some homemade focaccia bread and they were a hit with my mum and brother. Speaking of which, I think I’ll put up the recipe for the focaccia up soon.

Beef Stew (Adapted from At Home with Magnolia)

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Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

One large red onion, diced

Three shallots, finely sliced

Half a knob of garlic, chopped

300g premium beef, cubed

2 heap tablespoons of plain flour

1 tablespoon of paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

One carrot, diced

One celery stick, diced

One can of chopped pomodoro tomatoes

One tablespoon tomato paste

One cube of chicken stock

Three medium sized russet potatoes, cut into chunks

 

Method:

  1. In a deep pot, heat up oil on a medium heat.
  2. Sautee onion and shallots till fragrant. Add in garlic.
  3. In a bowl, rub in flour, paprika, salt and pepper with the meat. Ensure all of the meat is coated.
  4. Add in the meat with all of the remaining flour mixture into the pot. Fry all sides of the meat.
  5. After the meat has browned, add in carrots and celery, and mix well.
  6. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, and 2 cups of water into the pot.
  7. Simmer on low heat for 2 hours, remember to stir constantly.
  8. Add in potatoes and continue to cook for another half and hour, stirring every now and then.
  9. Serve with bread or on a bed of rice.

 

 

Kopi and Ondeh-Ondeh on a Sunday Afternoon

I went for a paintball session with some of my friends yesterday morning and somehow the paintball pellets remind me of ondeh-ondeh. Naturally, I had a sudden craving for them. I’m starting to like making traditional Malay food and sweets. As much as they are very tiring and troublesome to make, I realised that if I don’t start archiving traditional Malay recipes, I might not have anywhere to refer to. Okay there’s probably a lot of Malay cookbooks out there but for some reason I’m not motivated to make them unless I have a huge craving for them. My mother has been bugging me to learn her recipes because she fears the day she turns senile (god forbid) I wouldn’t be able to cook any of her specialties.

“Jangan nanti bila aku dah nyanyok, kau tak tahu masak rendang, roti boyan ni semua. Habislah menangis aku dua puluh empat jam!”

She pretty much worries for her stomach and tastebuds rather than her health as she get older. Oh mother.

So this was a simple afternoon tea snack we had yesterday. Little green balls of goodness.
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Ondeh-Ondeh

250g glutinous rice flour

200ml pandan juice (I extracted the juice from about 13 pandan leaves)

1 teaspoon salt

150g gula melaka

100g desiccated coconut

  1. Combine glutinous rice flour, salt and pandan juice together in a bowl
  2. Knead until dough comes together and is malleable. Add more water if necessary.
  3. Divide the dough into small balls.
  4. Cut gula melaka into small cubes.
  5. Roll the small balls and flatten them. Place gula melaka in the flattened dough and roll the dough back into balls.
  6. Repeat until you finish the dough.
  7. Boil salted water and drop the ondeh-ondeh into the pot. Cook for about 5-6 minutes before picking them out.
  8. Strain the balls before rolling them onto the desiccated coconuts.
  9. Serve!

Honey Apple Salad with Feta Cheese

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Ramadhan is around the corner and I know how difficult it is to soothe your palette after a whole day of fasting. You want everything you see on your instagram feed and you buy every single fried delicacy you see at the Ramadhan bazaar. Truth is, you will end up weighing more after Ramadhan, thanks to the endless food choices available.

Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 7 Surah Aaraaf verse 31:

O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.

On another note, be conscious to eat healthy while fasting. We only get to eat during the night but that doesn’t mean stuffing ourselves silly with junk. Here is one of my favorite salad recipes that will refresh your mind the minute it is time to break fast.

Honey Apple Salad with Feta Cheese

250g mixed salad (choose the ones with a mix of greens and reds)
1 gala apple
250g feta cheese
200g cherry tomatoes on the vine
Juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a mason or jam jar.
2. Cover with lid and shake the jar till everything combines well. Set aside.
3. In a big bowl, pour all the contents of your salad mix.
4. Cut apple into half, then slice them thinly. Add into the big bowl of salads.
5. Pour the salad dressing into the bowl of greens and mix them well.
6. Cut feta cheese into cubes.
7. Plate the salad on a big plate or bowl, and serve as suggested.

With that, enjoy eating more greens and have a blessed Ramadhan ahead!

Reminiscing Europe: Freshly Baked Loaves of Bread

What do I miss most about Europe apart from the wonderful weather? The bread. There is just something about the loaves of bread I had while traveling the continent last year. The crisp cracking sound of the bread as you bite into it, and the moist and soft texture of the insides – you could eat the bread just on its own, but spreading a little butter and jam seemed like heaven on earth to me. When I got home, I knew my standard of quality for good bread has gone off the roof. I’ve tried buying bread from local bakeries and even the upscale ones in the heart of expat living here in Singapore. Sadly, none of them satisfied my extremely decadent tastebuds. In local speak, the European bread I had spoil market for the bread made locally.

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My friend, Shireen, has an amazing mother who makes bread almost every weekend. We call her Ahjumma Shima, partly because she love her Korean dramas and also that is her Instagram handle. If you want to see pictures of lovely bread filling your instagram feed, do follow her @ahjumma_shima. Each time she uploads a picture, I almost lick my phone screen call her up for the recipe.

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While in Paris, I had the chance to attend two baking courses with La Cuisine Paris; a macaron baking workshop as well as a baguette and boulangerie workshop. The chef taught us to make bread using fresh yeast, so as usual, I had to substitute the finest ingredients for mediocre ones. Le sigh. Anyhoos, this bread recipe is pretty amazing, and I’m glad it worked really well for me. I am one who usually has no patience to wait when it comes to food (yes yes is it so hard to believe haha). I had to distract myself while waiting for the bread to rise by watching Big Bang Theory (of which I tend to scare my mother with the occasional bursts of laughter). I got this recipe from An Oregon Cottage. I could not find whole wheat flour, so I used whole wheat German rye flour instead. Still tastes awesome!

Now wait. I’m beginning to think this German rye flour is the secret to delicious bread…

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Wholewheat Soft Bread (Makes 2 loaves)

  • 6 to 6-1/2 c. whole wheat flour (I used wholewheat German rye flour)
  • 2-1/2 cups warm water (don’t use hot water! it kills the yeast!
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten- aka bread improver (you can omit this)
  1. Combine water, yeast and 2 cups of the flour in a mixing bowl. Set aside to sponge for 15 minutes.
  2. Add honey, oil, salt, (gluten if using), and 4 cups of flour. Mix until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Change to dough hook (or turn out to knead by hand), and knead 6 to 7 minutes (10 by hand). Add only tablespoons of flour if dough sticks to sides, being careful not to add too much.
  3. Form into two loaves and place in greased 9×5″ pans. Allow to rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes (1-2 inches above pans). Preheat oven to 350 ten minutes before rising time is done.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through if needed.
  5. Immediately remove from pans to cool on a rack.

Lunch for the Broken Soul

I am exaggerating. I do not have a broken soul. I just have a sprained ankle. I was walking to the bus stop with a friend and suddenly the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. Thank god my friend was there to help me up. I suppose this is God’s way to remind me that I need to rest and not exert my body. I’ve been working out 5-6 times per week since the year started, and surprisingly, I’ve not had a day to myself despite being self-employed.

Speaking of which, my friend Munirah from Snaprolls recently join the self-employed/unemployed/taking a gap year club. I jokingly told her over twitter we should get a new hashtag going on instagram called #unemployedbakes. She totally bought the idea! Check out #unemployedbakes on instagram and join us in the fun. I mean, we need some excitement especially since we found ourselves out of a job for the time being.

Today, I forced myself to sleep in on such a lovely Sunday morning. Ibu came in to check on my ankle and made sure I could walk a bit before leaving for her class. I dozed in and out of sleep while trying to watch The Book Thief. It’s 130 minutes, guys. I forgot how draggy and long war-based films can get. When the film ended, I finally decided to grab a bite so I used whatever leftovers I had in the fridge, which included sausages, milk from 3 different cartons (I really don’t know why my brother has a habit of drinking milk halfway and not finish the carton), a small knob of butter (leftover from one of my baking sessions) and some cheese.

This is a fairly simple recipe. Give it a go if you feel like you need some comfort food.

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Mac ‘n’ Cheese

1 and a half cups of macaroni

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 heap tablespoon plain flour

1 cube of chicken or beef stock

1 cup of sliced sausages, at room temperature

1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat oven to 200 deg centigrade.
  2. Boil water in a pot, add 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook pasta as instructed on package. Drain and place inside a pyrex dish.
  3. In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter and add in flour as butter is melting. Whisk quickly.
  4. Add in milk, half of the cheese and beef stock. Whisk until all is well-combined.
  5. When the cheese sauce is starting to thicken, switch off the fire and add to the macaroni. Add sausages and use a fork to mix everything together. Ensure the pasta is well coated with the cheese sauce.
  6. Top the pasta and sauce with the remaining cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 mins or until the top is golden brown.