Esther Clarke's crab and togarashi mac and cheese

Esther Clarke, author of The Modern Spice Rack, shares her recipe for this rich, indulgent mac and cheese packed with plenty of crab and a citrusy shichimi togarashi kick 

Serves 6

Preparation time 45 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes

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.

Ingredients

  • 950ml full-fat milk
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 350g cheese – a mix of Gruyère, Comte, Red Leicester, Cheddar, grated
  • ½-1 tbsp hot sauce, to taste (sriracha works well)
  • 350g dried macaroni
  • 200g fresh white and brown crab meat
  • ½-1 tbsp shichimi togarashi
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.
  2. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat until steaming, then remove from the hob. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat until foaming, then stir through the flour to make a thick paste and fry for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the warmed milk in several additions until you have a thin, smooth consistency. Return to a medium heat and whisk constantly for 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add 300g of the cheese, along with the hot sauce to taste and a pinch of salt. Whisk again until smooth (the sauce will look very thin, but thickens significantly in the oven).
  3. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of well-salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and tip it into the cheese sauce. Stir to combine, then pour everything into a large ovenproof dish. Top with the remaining cheese and push in spoonfuls of the crab. Sprinkle with the shichimi togarashi and bake for 15 minutes. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Extra ideas

Togarashi cheese on toast

Pile slices of toast with grated cheese and a generous sprinkle of shichimi togarashi before grilling.

Togarashi chips

Make your own chips and top them with ½-1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi. Serve with lots of mayonnaise.

Togarashi crisps

Toss a 150g bag of salted potato crisps with ½ tablespoon shichimi togarashi for a quick way to pep up a nibble or snack.

This recipe is from the 'The Modern Spice Rack' by Esther Clarke and Rachel Walker, available to buy here

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