Pale Ale Mac & Cauliflower Cheese

Ah, Mac & Cheese!

This for me is the epiphany of a delicious comfort food.
Small tubes of pasta cooked until el dente, combined with a rich cheesy sauce then topped with even more cheese and popped under the grill to create an almost crunchy topping.
Get a little garlic bread on the side and I am literally in heaven!

As a child, I would eat the tinned versions by Heinz where I would empty the lot into a bowl and microwave things up.
If I was feeling a little more extravagant, then I’d pop some more grated cheese on top and pop it under the grill to get some colour.
As a result, my parents would always make sure there were about 40 or 50 cans stocked up for just in case…
Though the texture of these canned versions was fine, I always remember them smelling a little funky – Possibly from the preservatives and processed delights crammed in.

Now that I am older and somewhat wiser, I’ve got the roux thing down and have cooked many a pasta dish in my time.
I thought why not cook up a version for adults and pop a little beer in there for good measure?
I mean, this is partially a beer website after all!

After some trial and error, here is my perfected recipe for a Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with Fourpure Pale Ale.

  • 50g Butter
  • 50g Flour
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 250ml Milk
  • 200ml Fourpure Pale Ale
  • 1/2 tsp Mustard
  • 100g Cheddar (Grated for The Sauce)
  • 50g Parmesan (Grated for The Sauce)
  • 220g Pasta (Macaroni)
  • 1 Small Cauliflower Head (Chopped into florets)
  • 125g Mozzarella (Grated for Topping)
  • 25g Cheddar (Grated for Topping)

Stage 1 – Starting with the sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a pan at a medium temperature until it has melted fully.
    Take the pan off the heat, add the garlic and allow it to cook and release the aromas for about 2 minutes.
  2. Put the pan back on a low heat and start to add the flour bit by bit, whisking constantly until everything has been incorporated and you are left with a smooth paste. Allow this to cook for a minute or two longer to get cook out the floury flavour.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium and start to pour in the Fourpure Pale Ale bit by bit, continually whisking as you do.
    Once the beer has been fully incorporated, do the same with the milk until the mixture loosens and starts becomes much like a loose custard.
  4. Take the pan off the heat, add the mustard and start to add all of the cheese, continuing to mix well until all the cheese has been added and you are left with a rich and umptious cheese sauce – Season Well.

Stage 2 – Now for the Pasta

  1. Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Once bubbling away, add some salt to the water and finally the pasta. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  2. Once the timer has 5 minutes left on the clock, add the cauliflower and cook both for a further 5 minutes. Total cooking time should be around 10 minutes, but don’t worry if you go a little over.
  3. Drain the pan of water in a colander, putting the pasta and the cauliflower back in the pan from whence it came.

Stage 3 – Bringing it all together

  1. Pour the melted cheese sauce in with the pasta and the cauliflower then mix well until the sauce is covering everything in the pan.
  2. With everything melted and covered, pour into a baking dish\casserole dish. Top with the last of the grated cheese and grated mozzarella. cook under a hot grill for up to 10 minutes – You want everything to be golden brown on top.
  3. Serve up and tuck in!

Any other pointers?

You can use any pale ale you like. I used Fourpure Brewing’s Pale Ale as they produce some brilliant beers and they are easily accessible at most supermarkets.
Their pale ale adds a between malt\fruity elements and the bitterness.
Pushing the limits with an IPA may make the whole dish far too bitter in my opinion.

I’d highly recommend the freshest whole milk (Blue Topped) you can get.
Mixing an acidic beer with anything less creamy will result in the sauce separating and becoming more scrambled than smooth.
I’ve learnt this the hard way through a little trial and error so that you don’t have to fall foul of the same issue.

Watch the cheese sauce and don’t let it boil over as this can cause the same reaction as above.
Keep things on  a medium heat until you have made the sauce and put to one side to finish up the pasta.
The idea is to get the sauce to the point where the cheese has fully melted and a little after till some light bubbles hit the surface – The sauce should be smooth and lump free.

The reason for the grill is to add some colour to the top and melt the cheese on the top layer. This also warms things through underneath without overcooking the cheesy sauce so that you can have a smooth Mac & Cheese when it comes to serving.

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