November 18, 2012

The King of MY Castle & Keep-Me-Cozy Mac 'n Cheese

This Sunday I want to start out by saying thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting Hunger & Haw Hai!. I'm living the dream and it's all because of you guys! And of course thank you God, for finally helping me work up the nerve to write for someone other than myself.

Speaking of God, I truly believe He has a great sense of humor. And when it starts to get a little nippy outside, I imagine a big booming bout of laughter. See, when I got married I didn't ask for jewels, or cars, or whatever else some superficial succubus would ask for. All I wanted was true love's kiss and my own bathroom. In retrospect, I think the Big Man Upstairs thought I was being a tad greedy. Why didn't I just settle for the bathroom?!?

Now, I don't know about you, but my bathroom is my secret haven of serenity. A place of comfort and contemplation. And I swear, I do some top-notch thinking in there. But every winter, like a needy nomad, my husband invades my  pagoda of peace and desecrates it's sanctity. Don't get me wrong, I love winters in Lahore. A lazy haze settles over the city. The blaze of the sun dims. Holiday season kicks off. And all is warm and fuzzy...until I stumble over a pile of wet towels.

It's not fair! Lahore only has two seasons! In the summer, LESCO's load-shedding schedule dictates when I shower. In the winter, it's my number one man.

How and why all of  this conspires boils down to gas  and electricity shortages. As usual, the government is responsible for my misery. But this is not about that. This  is about what goes down in retaliation for being shunned from my sanctuary.

First, I prepare to take my man down by shamelessly massaging my ego with a pep talk. It goes something like this:
Listen up, sister! You went to B-school at Berkeley! Business is your thing and you know some serious stategory! You will not cave in the face of a hostile merger! You will not bow down to an acquisition! You will play this game harder and better and YOU WILL WIN! 
And then, because he is my husband and truly my one true love, I silently surrender and slink away to my winter hideout, the kitchen.

This week, the weather really turned in Lahore. All the signs and symptoms of a season change are present. Cooler breeze,  check! Onset of social mania, check! Donning favorite sweatshirt, check! There's only one thing missing, but this year, in anticipation of the infiltration, I launched a preemptive strike. I moved into the kitchen, before he moved into the bathroom.

The idea was to to calm the chaos before it began. I slowly stirred a pot to lull myself into a zen-like state. And once I was finally centered, I got hungry. Just kidding. About the mystical stuff, not the "got hungry," part. So while I attempted to console myself over my self-imposed exile, I found comfort in a a bowl of the mac n' cheese.

This recipe is inspired by the divine macaroni 'n cheese served at The Cafeteria in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. I've used three different kinds of cheeses to make the richest, creamiest, most incredibly indulgent mac 'n cheese in town. Every spoonful is a warm bite of cheesy love. And with the salty tang of feta, this recipe is definitely worth busting your diet for!

I felt like I'd found a bear-hug in a bowl and my consolation turned into a one-woman celebration. I paired my macaroni with a really simple tomato, mint, and cottage cheese salad, drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The cool freshness of the mint and tomato and the sweet acidity from the balsamic cut the richness of the macaroni perfectly. Seriously, a lazy, but luxurious lunch!

Did I mention it's a breeze to make? The hardest thing you have to do is grate the cheese. And if you prep all your ingredients before you start, I promise, you should be done in about 15 minutes.
Keep-Me-Cozy Macaroni n' Cheese (4 servings)
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer

  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 pinch nutmeg (jaifal in urdu)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese (grated)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/2 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees celsius (for temperature conversions to Fahrenheit or Gas mark click here). Make sure oven is set to top-only heating. 

- Boil macaroni in salted water. Cook until al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Set  heat to medium. Add butter and stir until melted and macaroni is well-coated.

- Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper, mustard, and a pinch of grated nutmeg. Pour over macaroni and stir until well combined.

- Add grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese and crumbled feta to the pasta. Continue to to stir until cheese has melted and sauce has thickened, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat. 

- Spoon macaroni into individual bowls, top with grated cheddar cheese, and place in preheated oven. 

- Remove from oven once cheese is melted and lightly browned on top. Serve hot.
Tomato, Mint & Cottage Cheese Salad with Balsamic Dressing (4 servings)

  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 package cottage cheese (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 small bunch mint
  • 6 cups of your favorite salad greens
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
- Cut tomatoes in half length-wise and then cut each half into 2-3 wedges, depending on the size of tomatoes.

- Pick mint leaves off stalks and wash and drain. Wash salad greens and drain.

- In a bowl, combine tomato wedges, mint, salad greens, and finely chopped cottage cheese. 

- In a separate bowl, whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil together until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over salad or serve separately on side. 

As for the saga of the besieged bathroom, winter is coming...but I am the Dragon Mother (technically true, since I became a proud momma earlier this year), and one day (basically when winter is over) I shall rise , like a phoenix from the ashes, to reclaim my rightful throne (excuse the bad bathroom pun) and restore peace and order to my kingdom.

Till then, it's culinary yoga for me.

And until we meet again, fair lads and lasses, I bid all of thee a warm welcome to winter and happy eating!

P.S. Dear Husband, even though I sometimes hate sharing my space with you, I'll always share my dinner. 

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  1. Mehreen Zaidi11/19/12, 1:58 AM

    Haha. Insha yay!

  2. LOL and yummy..i love mac n cheese!!

  3. Hey! I love love love your blog and writing style. I recently moved to Lahore from the States and have browsed all the big stores for 'real' cheddar cheese but I just can't seem to find it. Where do you get your cheddar cheese from? Like the real sharp orange colored aged cheddar cheese? All they have here is Happy Cow and Adams. Thank you!

    1. Oh my God, I know this is SO late, but thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind words. For authentic sharp cheddar, your best bet is most likely Hyperstar in Fortress Stadium or Green Valley supermarket in The Mall of Lahore. Al-Fatah and Esajees carry some cheeses, but their selection is pretty sporadic. I hope that helps.

      Much love xoxo

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