There are plenty of things in life that one doesn’t need but that one wants, a case in point being the yoghurt maker that the BSG has added to our wedding list…I think our kitchen is one white good short of a showroom already (I’m also rather excited at this extension of his repertoire.) Other objects are completely necessary but equally unexciting, such as the ironing board on the very same list. Then there are the things that there is no need or desire for, things that are destined to be clutter, items found throughout mail-order catalogues and languishing among the badly-cut final pages of weekend newspaper supplements.
The appendix, of which I am now a proud ex-owner, seems to be the body’s version of aforementioned clutter. Apart from its great propensity to rupture at any given point, rendering its holder very unwell or worse, its function is long extinct along with our grass-chomping days: an evolutionary hangover, as my friend Caz puts it. As it turns out, they are as ugly as they are useless, so I am glad I never got to meet mine.
Hospital fare is not much to write home or anywhere else about, so I didn’t (odd, in an institution so geared towards mending, that nutrition is not given more thought). Suffice it to say that powdered mashed potato and beige plastic have their special place in the world.
The first night there, not knowing quite what the problem was, I was lulled into peaceful sanctuary in my cubicle, shrouded by a light green curtain, floating, like the Water-Rat in his boat beneath a weeping willow (or perhaps that was the Morphine). By night number two I was fully aware that hospitals, like aeroplanes, are places in which you barely snatch at sleep, aware of continuous ambient noise and fighting a losing battle to get comfortable. Once you’ve had the required procedure, its high time to ditch the IV and surgery socks, and hot foot it out of there. For 3 days I was foiled in my attempts at meeting release requirements – quite enough time to work up a healthy appetite.
The BSG, as well as dodging hostile scrums of agency nurses on the ward in order to keep me company, welcomed me home with the most comforting, unctuous, loving supper I could have ever dreamed of. It took me back to nursery days of scrapes, hugs, teatimes and stories. I’m not sure if it’s the macaroni, a building stuff of childhood classrooms, glued to paper, sprayed gold and strung onto necklaces as much as it was eaten, or the cheese, the lovely, warm, oozy cheese that makes this dish so, so right. And there have to be tomatoes on the golden crusty top. And plenty of ketchup alongside.I am definitely on the mend.
Serves 4 (no harm in making too much though)
20g plain flour
pinch of cayenne pepper
half teaspoon of mustard powder
425 ml milk
170g strong cheddar
3 rashers of unsmoked bacon, diced
half an onion, diced
1 large sliced or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in plenty of rapidly boiling water (so it stays moving and doesn’t stick) until just tender
Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour, cayenne pepper and mustard powder. Stir and cook the roux for a minute or so, before adding the milk, stirring all the time until boiling. Then simmer for a couple of minutes, it should thicken, but stir out the lumps. Stir in the cheese, keeping a bit for the top.
Fry the bacon bits and sweat the onion in a pan.
Add the macaroni to the cheese, the bacon and onion and mix well. Season to taste and put into a shallow, ovenproof dish, topping with the rest of the cheese and the sliced tomatoes.
Bake in an oven (about 180 degrees) for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbling on top.