For recipe writer, food stylist, and author of The Modern Spice Rack Esther Clarke, spices have historically been a tricky ingredient – something ubiquitous to everyone's kitchens but often underused, poorly stored and kept years past their prime. She believes the perceived alchemy and stringent marrying of certain spices to a cuisine should be thrown out the window, and her debut book nurtures the liberal, creative and everyday use of spices, from the commonly used to lesser-known ones.
Shichimi togarashi used in this mac and cheese is perhaps an example of one less seen in the typical spice rack. A punchy Japanese spice blend of chilli flakes, seaweed and sesame seeds that works wonderfully at cutting through rich dishes like this indulgent crab mac and cheese.
The trick with any mac and cheese is a mix of cheeses. If you just use cheddar it may split due to its high fat content leaving you with oily pockets and a grainy sauce, so try to use at least three cheeses. The addition of a hard cheese like Comté or Gruyère gives you a nutty flavour, and the Red Leicester is there for its mellowness and colour.
This is a Friday-night kind of dinner; enjoy with a bottle of cold white wine or some chilled beers. Serve it with a green salad, if you like.