My boyfriend is currently working abroad at the moment.
How I feel about this seems to change every five minutes.
And I'm so used to one (or both) of us working late or travelling for work that it doesn't seem particularly strange to me to go home to an empty flat and to potter around by myself for a few hours before heading to bed alone.
Other times - the hours leading up to his departures, my solitary dinners in front of the television - I'm slightly overwhelmed by how much I miss him and how much I'm used to sharing my life with him. On Sunday, in the hours before he left for his latest long-haul flight, I refused to let go of his arm, resolute in the belief that, if I didn't let him leave the flat, then he wouldn't have to go away at all. (Then he pointed out that he needed to go so that he could pay the mortgage on our new flat and I decided that he had a very valid point).
In order to keep myself entertained while he's away, I decided to see if I could eat vegetarian. When I was about seven, I told my mother that I was going to become vegetarian. I don't really remember why but I imagine was because someone in a boy band said that it was cool. My mother, in the way that mothers do, pointed out that I didn't actually like any vegetables and that this was not perhaps the best idea I'd ever had. I couldn't really argue with this and so back to my carnivorous ways it was.
Thankfully, my diet has expanded since then but, like so many people, I know we eat too much meat. This is a combination of my dislike of anything fish (my diet hasn't expanded that much) and my boyfriend's long-held belief that a plate of vegetables does not constitute a proper meal.
It's been an interesting experiment and shown me that the world is very much still geared in favour of meat-eaters. It has made me far more mindful about my food choices and, despite what this post may suggest, I haven't just eaten pasta for every meal as I feared might happen. Whether I can convince my boyfriend to change his eating habits on his return is a whole different question though...
Kale and three cheese macaroni cheese
Yield: Serves 2
Adapted from Hawksmoor's macaroni cheese
Hawksmoor is an excellent chain of steak restaurants in London. The meat is serious business there but my favourite part of every meal I've had there has been the rich macaroni cheese that they serve as an accompaniment. I was going to beg my brother, who works in one of their restaurants, for the recipe but luckily I discovered that it was already to be found online. The kale is really my attempt to justify eating three different kinds of cheese in one meal. I made a couple of small changes to the original recipe - apart from the addition of kale. I used corn flour rather than regular flour to make the roux; I always find I get a much better consistency with the former and it means that, if you use gluten free pasta, you have a gluten free macaroni cheese. The other change I made was to adjust the cheese proportions. I'm not a huge fan of stilton and I find a little goes a very long way. Feel free to play around as you see fit though.
- 150g (6oz) pasta (macaroni or penne works best, can be gluten free)
- 30g (2 level tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 30g (1 heaped tablespoon) corn flour (aka corn starch)
- 400ml (1 2/3 cup) milk
- 1 bay leaf
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 30g (A little over 1 oz) stilton
- 50g (2 oz) fresh parmesan, grated
- 50g (2 oz) mature cheddar, grated
- A generous handful of kale (I used cavolo nero), roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F fan.
- Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling water for about 8 minutes until just about cooked.
- Drain the pasta and set aside until needed.
- To make the sauce, heat the butter in a large pan over a low heat until it starts to bubble. Add the flour to make a roux and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time.
- Gradually add the milk, bay leaf and nutmeg (you can heat it all first, I don't normally bother), stirring constantly until the sauce becomes thick.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the stilton and most of the parmesan and cheddar, reserving a little of both to sprinkle on top.
- When the cheese has melted into the sauce, add the pasta and kale and stir to combine.
- Pour the mixture into an oven dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.