I did all the chopping first so I could just grab ingredients as needed. Do you like my internet-fabulous tea towel trick here? It hides the countertops so well! Clockwise from the top in this picture we have six bacon rashers that I snipped with kitchen scissors, two leeks, shredded cheddar cheese, frozen peas and fresh basil (though using dried is totally not the end of the world).
It's starting to sizzle
After chopping everything up, the first step in cooking the dish is to put the bacon and leeks in the hot frying pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and let them cook for ten minutes or until the bacon is golden - I cooked the bacon on a low temperature until it just started to take on a golden hue. Next time I make this dish, I probably won't put the leeks in with the bacon right away. They wasted away as the bacon cooked and you could barely tell they were ever there by the end. Next time I'll put them in about 3-4 minutes before the bacon is finished cooking so they have some chance of staying partially intact. I'll also use a bigger pot altogether, because it got a bit crowded at the end. Every meal is a learning experience!
A two-burner meal
I added the peas and let them cook through and my water has still barely come to a boil. Another tip for the future: start the macaroni earlier! To avoid burning the bacon, leek and pea mixture, I had to turn that burner off while the pasta cooked.
Finally, the macaroni cooked all the way through. I stirred it all up in the frying pan with some of the cooking water, half of the shredded cheddar and a small tray of soft cheese (this is cream cheese - please refer to my brief "Americanization" at the end of this post if you're in the States and want to cook this without going crazy or doing all the converstions yourself). Once all the ingredients were well worked in, I sprinkled the other half of the cheddar cheese on the dish and put it in to grill. Our grill (broiler) takes a bit longer than others I've seen, so I decided to serve up the soup while our pasta dish developed a nice, slighly crusty top.
This is the carrot and parsnip soup that I posted about two days ago. Doesn't it have a lovely color? And it's so smooth! This soup is easy to make, packed with nutrients and a big hit with the family. That's what I call a keeper. I served up this soup with a bit of my signature "everyday garlic bread," which is wheat toast with a thin spread of butter and a tiny bit of garlic salt sprinkled on top. You can use white toast, if you prefer, but wheat is better for you and I'm sure you already know that. Okay, I'm done preaching. So we ate up the soup while the pasta baked away and when we were done...
A super cheesy pasta bake
The pasta finished baking! What a super dish. It went down very well with the stepdudes and it wasn't hard to make at all. I'll be doing this one again in the next few weeks, that's for sure. However, I'll ditch the frying pan next time. Bacon cooks up just as well in a bigger pot and it would make it so much easier to stir everything up if I had a bit of elbow room to work with.
One word of advice: if you plan on cooking this recipe for your family and you're thinking of skipping the mustard so your mustard-hating kids will like it better, don't! Both of my stepsons are big-time mustard-haters and they gobbled this dish up like crazy, despite the fact that I put a huge dollop of yellow mustard in the dish before grilling it. I strongly suggest keeping the mustard...just make sure your youngsters don't see the jar on the kitchen counter!
I hope you enjoy making this dish. For any of you U.S. readers who want to try this, here is an recap of the ingredients list with any relevant "Americanizations" in bold:
- 6 rashers streaky bacon , chopped (8-10oz. regular bacon)
- 2 leeks , finely sliced into rings
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 140g frozen peas (3/4 cup)
- 400g macaroni (3 cups uncooked macaroni)
- 200g pack soft cheese (8oz. tub of regular or low-fat cream cheese)
- 85g mature cheddar , grated (3/4 cup)
- 1 tbsp English mustard
- small bunch basil , shredded (1 tsp. dried basil is fine, too)