Prawn Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Indulgend, luxurious and surprisingly easy to prepare.

Seafood and cheese is a rare combination but if done subtly and with a lot of respect for the core ingredients, it works really well. A light, cheesy sauce scented with saffron does the trick. A fragrant rosemary crust to go on top. This is a little bit of luxury, a dish of celebration. Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it.

Credits where credits are due: this is a slightly modified version of Jamie Olivers lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. We substituted the lobster with prawns because lobster is very difficult to obtain in Vienna. And extremely expensive. Using prawns also makes this recipe a lot easier to prepare. Of course, nothing can compare with the flavour of lobster, but this easier variation still is very, very delicious.

If you don’t like the anchovies used in this recipe and are slightly grossed out about cod liver, remember that those ingredients completely dissolve in the sauce and are only there to add a hearty, fishy, umami touch you couldn’t get otherwise. No worries, you won’t notice them.

Get a really hot mustard for this. You need the punch of it to cut the rich sauce. Mild of sweet mustard simply won’t make it.

Resist the urge of adding more cheese to it to make it “better”. Yes, usually adding more cheese makes everything better, but in this case you really need to constrain yourself to not overpower the prawns.

Speaking of prawns, you want to buy the best quality you can get. Cheap prawns are inferior taste-wise and if you look into the “production” of them, you really don’t want to eat them. We added a little salmon, just because I love salmon, and you probably could add any firm fish you like.

A topping of rosemary flavoured breadcrumbs is optional but highly recommended. The scent alone is worth the labour.

Ingredients

serves six:

  • 600g kitchen ready prawns (we used 400g prawns and 200g salmon)
  • 2-3 onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 50g butter
  • a generous pinch of saffron
  • a little bit of cayenne pepper (or chili)
  • a few anchovy fillets or a small can of cod liver
  • 200ml of white wine or prosecco
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1l semi-skimmed milk
  • about 2 tsp English mustard (or other hot mustard)
  • 400g dried short pasta like macaroni or penne
  • 210g of mixed cheese (choose good quality. We used equal parts of mature Cheddar, Austrian mountain cheese and Grana)

for the topping (optional)

  • a good handfull of dry breadcrumbs (we used some leftover Irish soda bread)
  • a twig of rosemary
  • more cheese

Instructions

  1. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Get a large ovenproof casserole pan (ours is about 30×25 and about 8cm deep) that you want to serve up in. Put the butter in the pan, add onions, garlic, saffron, cayenne pepper and the anchovies and cook for about 10 minutes until golden.
  2. Add the wine and cook away, then reduce the head and stir in the flour. Slowly add the milk, constantly stiring and breaking up any lumps. Add the mustard. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Drain but reserve a little of the starchy cooking water for later.
  4. Cut the prawns (and other fish) into little cubes matching the pasta. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the pasta and prawns (plus fish) and grate in the cheese. Mix well, taste and season to perfection (slightly overseason as the raw prawns and the pasta will suck up a little of the flavour). You don’t want the sauce to be super thick now, so loosen with a little cooking water if needed. The sauce will thicken as it bakes.
  5. Optional: finely chop the leafes of one rosemary twig. Blitz in a food processor together with stale bread and sprinkle over the pasta. Add a little extra grated parmesan.
  6. Cook in the oven for about 35 minutes, or until golden, bubbling and delicious. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving so it has time to set and you don’t scorch your mouth eating it.

Macros

This is a festive meal for a special occasion and you shouldn’t be overly focused on tracking macros but rather enjoy the feast. Jamie Oliver lists about 850kcal per serving, which really isn’t a lot for a special treat like this. Enjoy the occasion and worry about macros tomorrow 😉 .

We served it up with a very easy fennel salad just to have something fresh and crunchy. A medium sized fennel is enough for two. Very finely slice it up, season with salt and lemon juice. Done.

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