The Shared Kitchen | Recipe For Carrot Mac ‘N’ Cheese

Carrot mac ’n’ cheese with crunchy cheese crumbs, from The Shared Kitchen, by Clare Scrine.
Carrot mac ’n’ cheese with crunchy cheese crumbs, from The Shared Kitchen, by Clare Scrine.

In her book, The Shared Kitchen, published by Smith Street Books, self-taught cook Clare Scrine highlights the simple joy in cooking with ingredients that you already have on hand.

As with her first book, The Shared Table, published nearly three years ago, this one is centred around share houses in the inner suburbs of Brisbane. And it was while she was on ‘fridge and pantry duty’ in one of those share houses that inspiration for The Shared Kitchen came to her.

One of her tasks — which anyone who has been through the share-house experience will relate to — is to clear the fridge of veggies that are beyond saving. Throwing out almost a kilo of carrots that were too far gone even by her own ‘cut off the mould, she’ll be right’ approach to produce, Scrine was inspired to produce a cookbook that would help reduce waste and save those precious ingredients from the bin.

The book is divided into 16 chapters, each with recipes featuring one fruit or veg as their centrepiece (mostly staples like apples, potatoes, onions, pumpkin, tomato and so on). Her intention is not only to reduce waste, however — it’s also about the pleasure and therapeutic joy of cooking with what you already have.

About half the recipes are vegan

The recipes are all vegetarian (about half are vegan). None have ingredients that are hard to find. “They’re designed to be whipped up on a whim from a well-stocked fridge and pantry as that’s how I like to cook,” says Scrine.

Some are quite clever – like the doughnuts made with potato – and some are simple twists on old favourites – like the roast pumpkin akin to a deconstructed satay with its crunchy chickpeas, peanuts, and coconut cream.

Scrine’s clear step-by-step instructions for Smoky potato & rosemary bread inspire confidence, while the Lemon & Rosemary Cake and Banoffee Pavlova are a treat. The Carrot Mac ’n’ Cheese recipe here is a long way from the Kraft Mac ’n’ Cheese that Scrine coveted as a kid, but still, she says, “there’s something about its simple savouriness that feels reminiscent … (it) hits all those comfort-food notes”.

The book has menu suggestions for a variety of feasts, from a slow summery lunch, and a vegan dinner party, to a quick Italian feast, a packed picnic, and a celebration meal. Photographs of the dishes in various share house locations are interspersed with Q & A’s with friends about their share house experiences. Sharing a table and a kitchen leads friends and strangers to become family in no time.

“There is lots to learn and gain from sharing intimate space,” says one friend. “Self-awareness, creativity, deep connection, maintenance and support, just to name a few. Like any fragile ecosystem, the more work, love and care you give, the more you receive.”

The Shared Kitchen by Clare Scrine

Buy your copy of  The Shared Kitchen from Australian-owned Booktopia.

Carrot mac ’n’ cheese with crunchy cheese crumbs

Serves 4 to 6

4 large carrots, diced
1 large brown onion, diced
50 g (1¾ oz) salted butter
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp nutmeg (ideally freshly grated)
2 heaped teaspoons smoky paprika
3 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
500 ml (2 cups) milk
salt and pepper
500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) macaroni (or another small pasta shape)
100 g (1 cup) grated vintage cheddar
50 g (½ cup) grated parmesan

Crunchy cheese crumbs

100 g (1 cup) grated cheddar

Place the carrot, onion and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and gently cook, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened with some golden edges. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes, until fragrant.

As the vegetables cook, prepare the crunchy cheese crumbs. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until very hot, then scatter a small handful of the grated cheese across the pan. As the cheese melts, it will form a lacy disc. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, watching it carefully, until the oil starts to separate and the cheese begins to turn golden brown. Flip over the melted cheese disc, using a spatula or tongs, and cook for another 30 seconds or until golden, then transfer to a board or a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining cheese. Once the cheese cools, it will crisp up again – break the discs into shards or small crumbs.

Add the mustard, nutmeg, paprika and flour to the pan with the carrot and stir really well to coat. As the flour mixes with the buttery vegetables, it will become gluggy, which is what we’re looking for. After a minute or so, pour in the milk and stir for about 5 minutes, until it forms a chunky bechamel sauce.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender, then blitz until smooth. Alternatively, you can use a stick blender to whiz the mixture until silky. Season well with salt and pepper.

Return the sauce to the pan and stir through 500 ml (2 cups) of water and the stock. Heat the sauce until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, then add the macaroni. Cook the macaroni for a few minutes less than the packet directions, stirring it often to stop it sticking to the base of the pan. Small pasta cooks quickly, and will continue to soften as it cools, so it’s better to undercook it slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the grated parmesan. Taste and season well.

Divide the macaroni cheese among bowls, topping each with a sprinkling of the crunchy cheese crumbs.

Recipe and images from The Shared Kitchen by Clare Scrine, published by Smith Street Books, distributed by Thames & Hudson Australia. Reproduced with the publisher’s permission.

This story originally appeared in PS News.

**Enjoy many more delicious recipes from our Food Wine Travel files here.**

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