Apparently I've been in such a daze from life being, y'know, life, that I completely missed my blog's ninth birthday. I realised it while sitting on the floor drinking wine, (thanks, floor-wine) and figured I ought to at least try to play catch up and make something nice for myself in honour of the occasion, even if now it's several days after the fact. That something nice is Halloumi and Pancetta Mac and Cheese from my cookbook. Seems appropriately garish and celebratory and self-referential, no?
I'm honestly really proud of myself for maintaining this blog for basically a third of my entire time on this earth. My attention span is so short that I often can't make it to the end of a 90 minute movie so to get to this point in my life and still have this blog with me is very heartening. And I haven't just maintained the blog, I've believed in it and loved it fiercely. Do you believe in something right now? Something that you're working on and constantly creating and pouring yourself into? Well I can't express how hard I believe in this blog. I know it sounds like hyperbole when I describe it as "probably the best food blog in the world", but trust me: I literally never use hyperbole. I LOVE hungryandfrozen.com. Believing in something you've made is not a feeling that comes along every day. Let alone every day for nine whole years!
I suspect - there's always something with me, isn't there - that the reason I've been so distracted is that I'm going through this charming patch of feeling panicky all the time, real awesome stuff like immediately overheating and feeling like I'm going to throw up and my heart's pounding really hard and I forget my own name. Is it better to feel creeping dread over absolutely nothing, or to actually see something specific that causes you to panic? Let me tell you, my brain is super woke and does not discriminate. Why not both? it says, with arms wide open. Luckily I'm immensely good at telling myself sternly that the show must go on and also have some helpful resources at my shaky fingertips. I just thought I'd tell you this because why not, it happens, it's no big deal. It's soooo chill how not-chill I am. Unfortunately though it does seem somewhat tied up in my feelings about this mac and cheese that I made. Fortunately, this mac and cheese tastes amazing no matter what's going on in my life. Or indeed, yours.
When I wrote this recipe for my cookbook - several years ago now, gosh - I wanted to make something wilfully ridiculous. So there's not merely an entire block of halloumi fried up and stirred through it. There's not just pancetta, that fancy-pants cousin of bacon. There's also 500ml of cream in the white sauce, instead of the usual milk. Well, go big or go home, you know? I can't deny that this is all very rich and intense for the sake of it, but it's not overpowering - just soft and comforting and punctuated with mouth-fillingly buttery bursts of halloumi and salty pancetta bits. It's honestly very non-threatening - splendidly enormous enough for a casual dinner party but still recognisably the classic comfort food that you can eat while horizontal on the couch watching, oh, the golden era of The Simpsons or something.
It's also really easy to make. You can just serve it straight from the pan once you've stirred it all together, but it looks wonderful transferred into a big serving dish and browned a little in the oven, even if it does mean more dishes.
pancetta and halloumi mac and cheese
A recipe by ME from my COOKBOOK which you can't BUY ANYMORE but it's still NICE that it happened
- 300g dried macaroni
- 150g pancetta (or streaky bacon if it's too expensive or you can't find it)
- 200g halloumi
- 20g butter
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 500ml cream
- Fresh nutmeg
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the macaroni in it according to packet instructions.
Dice the pancetta and fry in a large pan till crisp and dark pink. Lift it out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and arrange evenly in the base of a 20 x 30 (or thereabouts) oven dish. Slice the halloumi block in half lengthwise, then into slices crosswise. Fry these in the same pan, then evenly arrange the slices on top of the pancetta.
Still in the same pan, melt the butter and stir in the mustard powder and flour. Continue to stir till thick, then slowly stir in the cream. A whisk is particularly good here. Simmer till thickened. This won't take long.
Drain the macaroni, tip it into the roasting dish along with the cream sauce and mix carefully. Retain a little of the macaroni cooking water to stir into the sauce if it's tooooo thick. Grate over a little fresh nutmeg, and bake for 20 minutes till golden on top.
As I said, you could also just tip the drained macaroni, fried halloumi, and fried pancetta directly into the pan of white sauce and serve it from that. Whatever works!
Serves 1. Or like, slightly more people.
You can trust me about this mac and cheese. It's truly, truly good.
It's weird, having got some of the things I wanted so badly - a cookbook, specifically - and having them not turn out the way they did in my dreams, has made me a little unsure of where this blog is going next. If all I do is keep on writing about recipes and my sweatiness levels I guess that's okay. I love the idea of having some kind of funny web series that gets turned into a cool TV show eventually; or to perhaps write a more low key, storybook cookbook that I have a lot more creative control over. On the other hand I truly believe there are far too many cookbooks in the world right now and the last thing anyone needs is another one from me.
In the last nine years I've been a million different people; done a zig-zag career path from finishing my BA at university to working in marketing and public health; to travelling; to government administration; to diving into hospo and suddenly running a bar. My hair has changed colour a zillion times, I've moved house too many times, I've skated wildly about on the Kinsey scale; I've hidden immensely hard stuff and probably talked way too much about other immensely hard stuff. I got a damn cookbook deal offered to me. I still continue to love writing with all my heart and I love inventing recipes and being excited and inspired by other peoples'. I love feeding the people I love. I really love the sound of my own voice, apparently. So without any real sense of direction from here, I'm going to settle for just being proud of myself for making it this far with hungryandfrozen.com by my side, just us two, still together after all these years.
If you're not already sick of my boundless ability to talk about myself like I'm a topic that affects us all; may I suggest on this anniversary that you check out some classic cuts from HungryandFrozen: a few of my favourite posts. (I basically started scrolling backwards through my blog and picking some here and there and only made it as far as 2013 so this whole exercise is flawed. The simplest solution: set aside an entire day to read my whole blog from the top. I remain unconvinced that you have anything going on that would be more fun and worthwhile than this.) Nevertheless as a starting point: My blog post about honeycomb sauce that I wrote in the style of a Babysitters Club book; the recipes I made for Nautilus Estate Wines; my post-election Mars Bar slice; my portmanteau triumph, Sore Throatmeal; and tbh the last blog post I did about mint, pea and avocado salad was pretty good.
Here's to a billion more years of hungryandfrozen.com. *clink!*
title from: Liz Phair's delicious I'm-an-older-woman track Rock Me. I love the line "you don't even know who Liz Phair is." Such scathing.
my little brother sent me this track by a band called HEX suggesting I might like it. Considering they're called HEX and this song is called The Moon, I was like yes, I love it sight unseen. (It's a really good song though.)
New music from the swoony Laura Lee is always a treat. She has a bubbly clubby new track out called I Feel and I love it!
Lana Del Rey, Born To Die. If you feel like you haven't done enough lying down on the floor and wailing lately, let this song inspire you. Ugh I love her, in all her manipulatively emotional glory.
next time: I mean at least I have a whole year now to remember my blog's birthday.