macaroni cheese – serves 4

700ml milk
1 small onion, peeled and studded with 2 cloves
50g butter
50g flour
175g cheddar, grated
175g blue cheese, crumbled
400g penne, rigatoni or macaroni, cooked but still firm
4 baby leeks or 1 large leek
200g smoked bacon lardons
salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g parmesan, grated
1 crusty loaf

Preheat the oven to 220C

Place the milk and the clove-studded onion into a small pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then switch off the heat, allowing the flavours to infuse into the milk.

In another pan, make the bechamel sauce.

Melt the butter over a medium heat and, when foaming, add the flour. Stir well and cook for four minutes. The mixture will be quite thick to start with. Don't allow it to catch and burn.

Gradually add the hot milk to the butter and flour mixture, stirring constantly with a balloon whisk, bringing the milk to the boil between each addition of milk. Keep adding the milk a ladle at a time until it's all used up.

Simmer the bechamel sauce for five minutes, until it has a rich, smooth consistency and is free from lumps.

Add the grated cheddar and crumbled blue cheese to the bechamel and stir again until melted and smooth. Turn off the heat. Once the cheese is added to the bechamel, don't allow it to boil or the cheese will become stringy.

Place the cooked macaroni into a large bowl. slice the leeks finely, at an angle. (If using large leeks, use only the tender, white part.)

Fry the smoked bacon lardons for a few minutes, drain the fat and add the bacon to the leeks

Add the sliced leeks to the bowl with the pasta and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the cheese sauce and mix thoroughly. Place the macaroni cheese into a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the grated parmesan.

Put it in the preheated oven to bake until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes

Serve