Crispy prosciutto macaroni and cheese


 
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping

A few weeks ago, I had a prosciutto situation. We don't eat a huge amount of it, but every now and then we buy it for a kickass pesto-burrata-pesto-pizza situation. I tend to buy it freshly sliced, and up until recently I had bought it at whole foods. There's this awful woman who works there, who would easily win the award for slowest prosciutto slicer in the world. The first time I encountered her I had just come from the gym, and she hit me with "Oh, so you just went to the gym, and now you're buying prosciutto? Ok then. Whatever works for you", then proceeded to take the longest time in the world to slice me a quarter pound of the stuff. Not impressed. 

My second encounter (This is the most boring story ever), I did the usual, asked for a quarter pound, then started to wait. She said to me "If you have any other shopping to do, you could do it now and come back, because this is going to take a while". Judging from the last experience I took her word for it, did the rest of my shopping, and came back to find she had mis-heard me and cut one and a quarter pounds of prosciutto. It was a MOUNTAIN. And because I am too chicken to say anything, I took it from her, and hid it in the back of the fridge for fear of Rich judging me and my terrible track record of standing up for myself. 

So clearly, the only thing to do with it was to eat it! We had two pizza nights, and only made a tiny dent in pork mountain. The only option I had left was to put it into something that Rich inhales: Mac and cheese. Turns out if you pan fry prosciutto, it goes amazingly crispy, which is the perfect addition to mac and cheese! I used a mixture of cheddar cheese and mozzarella for this one, which added a nice stringy-ness, although you can really go ahead and use whatever cheese you like. This is the ultimate comfort food, something that friends often request when they are coming around for dinner. It is easy to make ahead - prepare it up to the stage where it is ready for the oven, then store in the fridge until ready to bake. Leftovers also heat up perfectly. 

I made this in four individual cocottes, which works perfectly for us because I suck at sharing. A 9x9 baking dish would also work too. 

 

 

Crispy Prosciutto macaroni and cheese
- Serves 4-6 people -

1/4 lb (115g) prosciutto
11oz (300g) medium pasta shells
4 Tbsp (60g) butter
4 Tbsp (36g) flour
3 cups (730ml) milk
5 oz (140g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5 oz (140g) mozzarella cheese, grated
4 oz (120g) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup (25g) panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup (55g) regular bread crumbs

 

- PROCESS -

Preheat oven to 400˚f/200˚c. In a frying pan over medium to high heat, fry the prosciutto slices until crispy. Remove and leave to cool. Roughly chop and set aside. 

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Drain and set aside. 

While the pasta is cooking, in a large pot over high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until foamy. Continue to cook for a further 30 seconds - 1 minute. Turn the heat to low and, whisking constantly, slowly add the milk. Return the heat to high and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Season well with salt and pepper. 

Remove the sauce from the heat, and add the cheddar, mozzarella and half the parmesan cheese. Stir well until the cheese has melted and the sauce is homogenous. Taste and season again if necessary. Add the cooked pasta and chopped prosciutto to the pot, and stir well to combine. Pour into baking dish / dishes. 

Combine the panko breadcrumbs, regular breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the surface of the pasta. 

Place the baking dish on a baking sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. 

Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping

Raspberry, lemon and almond cake


 
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.
Raspberry and Almond cake - a perfectly dense almond meal cake, lightly scented with lemon, and with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into each layer. Layered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and more fresh raspberries. perfect for Mother's day or any other special occasion.

Spring is finally here! There's rhubarb, and ramps, and peonies, and lilacs, and green things at the farmer's market, which for me is a sure sign that shitty NYC winter is gone, and shitty NYC summer is on it's way! Living the dream, I tell you. I have been spending the majority of my days smack bang in front of the kitten's cage. I just can't believe how quickly they have grown - we now have 5 energetic little pocket rockets, who all have their own personalities. I am so in love with each and every one of them, and have a strange feeling I am going to have a very, very hard time saying goodbye once they are old enough to be adopted.

Something else that is also on the way is Mother's day! Even though my own Mum lives a zillion million miles away in New Zealand, I put this one together with her in mind. It sucks being so far away on special occasions (and all occasions really, it just sucks in general). She isn't a fan of chocolate, or anything too sweet (clearly I inherited Dad's taste buds), so I went with an almond meal, lemon, and raspberry combination, with minimal amounts of buttercream. I had been keeping it in the back of my mind for a while, and then when the lovely Sarah surprised me with this beautiful pink cake plate in the mail, I knew exactly what had to go on top!

This cake tastes like spring. Layers of cake, dense from the almond meal, are lightly scented with lemon, and then offset with the tartness of a good handful of raspberries pressed into the top of each layer. I wanted the flavours to really shine, so I sandwiched the layers with a small amount of vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, and finished with more raspberries. I decided to keep things naked this time. Ayyyeeee. The overall finished product is a cake that isn't too sweet, and perfect for any celebration. The cake batter itself is fairly neutral flavoured, so I would think that it would work with berries, stone fruit, rhubarb, etc. You could probably even pop some apples in the top. I can't wait to try it with some lemon curd between the layers too! Yummmm. I have a feeling this is going to be a standard go-to when I am needing a non-chocolate cake. 

A few wee things:

  • I made this in 3 6 inch cake tins. It resulted in three quite tall layers, so therefore a fairly high cake once it was stacked with buttercream. It could definitely be made in two 8 inch layers, and stacked up to make a shorter cake - just make sure to adjust the baking time. 
  • I went with a naked finish which uses a fairly small amount of buttercream. If you were wanting to frost this on the outside of the cake, increase the ratios of ingredients in the buttercream to 140g egg whites, 140g sugar, and 4 sticks (450g) butter. 
  • If fresh raspberries aren't in season, frozen work just as well in the top of the cake, and you can either leave them out between the layers, or use frozen, although be aware that they will bleed when they defrost. 
  • I initially decorated this with baby's breath, but was slightly unsure on the look, so went with a pile of raspberries instead, which are great for adding a little freshness when serving. I popped a photo of the baby's breath version down below for you to see too though!
 

 

Raspberry and almond cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream
- Makes one six inch, three layered cake -

Cake recipe adapted from The Caker

Raspberry, lemon and Almond Cake
340g (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) sugar
150g (1/2 cup) maple syrup
6 eggs, at room temperature
200g (2 1/2 cups) almond meal
200g (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
225g (8oz) fresh or frozen Raspberries

Vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream
105g (3.7oz) egg whites
105g (3.7oz) sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
3 sticks (340g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

To Garnish (optional)
225g (8oz) Fresh Raspberries
Fresh flowers

 

- PROCESS -

RASPBERRY, LEMON AND ALMOND CAKE

Preheat the oven to 350f/180c. Grease and flour three 6-inch baking tins and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and beat well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Sift in the flour, baking powder and almond meal, and mix briefly to combine. Add the lemon juice and zest, and mix until combined. 

Divide the batter between the three tins, spreading out using the back of a spoon to flatten. Divide the raspberries between the three cakes, sprinkling over the surface of the cake, and pressing down lightly. 

Bake the cakes for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake springs back lightly to the touch, and a cake tester or skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes in the tin. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

In the bowl of stand mixer, combine egg whites, vanilla, and sugar. Whisk briefly until combined. Place the bowl of the mixer over a small saucepan of water, taking care that the water does not touch the bowl. Turn the heat to medium. 

Whisking occasionally to prevent the egg white cooking, bring the egg mixture to 150f/65c. Place the bowl back onto the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and is completely cool. Feel the outside of the bowl with your hands - there should be no trace of heat left (this is especially important for the next step to ensure that the butter does not melt when you add it). Cooling may take up to 20 minutes. 

Once the bowl is cool, with the motor running, add the butter one chunk at a time, incorporating well between each addition. If the mixture looks curdled/melted, do not worry, just continue whipping and it will come together. Whip until the buttercream is smooth and silky. Switch to the paddle attachment and whip on low for a few minutes to help eliminate any large air bubbles.

ASSEMBLY

If necessary, level off the cakes using a bread knife. Fit a piping bag with a large open star tip (I used an Ateco 827 tip), and fill with buttercream. Place the first layer of cake on a turntable or cake stand. Pipe a layer of 'blobs' onto the first layer. Top with a small handful of raspberries. Place the second layer of cake on the first, and repeat the process with the buttercream and raspberries. Place the final layer on top, and smooth a thin layer of buttercream over the top of the cake using an offset spatula. Top with fresh raspberries, fresh raspberries and flowers, or your choice of decoration. Store in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 1 hour before serving.

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Blackberry, Sage, and Cricket Margarita


 
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.
Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.

My goodness. The last few weeks have been pretty ridiculous! We are currently fostering a nursing mama cat and her five kittens! And far out, it is distracting. At first it was filled with stress about whether they were getting enough to eat, gaining weight fast enough etc, but now that they are starting to run around like little nuggets, the cute level is insanely distracting. They are starting to interact with us and each other, and I catch myself sitting on a cushion in front of their cage, just watching, far too often. Its the best, worst thing. They have settled in really nicely now though so I feel like I can finally get some stuff done, and only check on them 286236 times a day instead of 2835729384723 times. 

Happy Happy Margarita week! This year, there is a margarita week party hosted by the lovely Hola! Jalapeno. Right up until Cinco de Mayo, a load of bloggers will be posting their fave Margarita or Margarita inspired recipes! You can check out the full list over on Kate's site - she will update it as everyone posts throughout the week!

I wanted to go with a little twist on the classic margarita. Recently I made a big batch of sage simple syrup, which is my fave thing to add to soda water now that the weather is getting hotter. Seeing as I already had that in the fridge, I combined it with some blackberries, tequila and lime, and plopped it in a glass, rimmed with a quick sage salt. It was my first time making the sage salt, but it definitely will not be my last - it was packed full of flavour, and I can't wait to put it on everything! Everything

I also added something a little different to these margaritas - some good friends of ours have recently released a new product called Critter bitters! It's bitters infused with crickets, which I was super skeptical about at first, as I think most people are, but it's super delicious! The toasted Crickets lend a slightly smoky flavour. The philosophy behind it is that the eating of insects is the first viable solution to a global food shortage. They have a fairly minimal impact on the environment, and they are nutritionally dense. Critter bitters were developed as an introduction to eating insects - a way to get over the 'yuck' factor! Check them out here! If you don't have any, you can either leave out the bitters, or just use regular bitters. Big ups to Lucy from Makers of Trouble who is a bomb bartender and helped me with the recipe for this! 

 

 

Blackberry, sage, and cricket margarita
- Makes 1 drink -


Margarita
Sage salt to rim the glass
Small handful (approx 6-7) blackberries
1 oz (30ml) Fresh lime juice
2 oz (60ml) tequila
1 oz (30ml) Sage simple syrup
2 sleeves (2 dashes) Critter bitters, or regular bitters
Ice

Sage Salt
1/4 cup salt (I used Kosher)
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Sage Simple Syrup
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 cup (240ml) water
Large handful of fresh sage leaves (I used 7-8 "Sprigs")

 

- PROCESS -

SAGE SIMPLE SYRUP

Place sugar and water in a small pot. Heat over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium, and bring the liquid to just shy of a simmer. Add the fresh sage leaves, and steep for 20-30 minutes. Remove leaves and allow to cool.

SAGE SALT

Place salt and sage leaves in a small food processor, blender or spice/coffee grinder. Pulse until well combined. Spread onto a plate and leave for 1-2 hours to dry. Can be used immediately, but make sure to dry well before storing the excess. 

MARGARITA

Run the cut edge of a lime around the rim of a chilled glass, and coat the rim of the glass with the sage salt. Fill the glass with ice. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker or jar, muddle together the blackberries and the lime juice. Add the tequila, sage syrup and bitters. Shake well to incorporate. Pour into prepared glass, and garnish as desired.

Blackberry, sage and cricket margarita. Blackberries are muddled with lime, a sage simple syrup adds a hint of sage, and bitters infused with crickets give a slightly smoky after taste. Finished off with a sage salt rim.