How Much is a Handful?

Stir-Through Mac & Cheese-2

Are you a precise, measure-every-single-ingredient cook? Or more someone who likes to just add ‘a little bit of this and that’?

Me?

I’m somewhere in the middle…

Now ‘fence sitting’ isn’t normally my style. But in this case, there’s a very good reason…

Sometimes (actually more often than not), especially in savoury cooking, the exact amount of an ingredient doesn’t matter.

Sure more cheese in the recipe below will give you a richer, more cheesey pasta, but it’s not going to ruin it. And if you love cheese, will probably be the best outcome.

Then there are times when precision means the difference between ‘delicious’ and ‘disaster’…

This tends to happen more often when you’re baking but it can happen in savoury dishes too.

What does all this mean?

Essentially, if a recipe writer calls for a ‘handful’ or a ‘pinch’ of something, they’re really telling you it doesn’t matter so much exactly how much you add.

You’re free to use your own judgement. Really.

But if there’s an exact measurement, generally this should be read as ‘please use this amount so everything works out and you like my recipe and keep coming back for more‘.

Got it?

I’m so glad we had this chat.

So back to my earlier question?

What type of cook are you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

____

‘Stir-Through’ Mac & Cheese

We normally don’t eat a lot of pasta but I must admit, I love having this simple stir-through dish in my repertoire as a treat for Fergal or when I have a hoard of hungry toddlers to feed. For some healthier ideas see the variations below.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes
200g (7oz) pasta
4 tablespoons cream
2 handfuls grated cheese (see below for options)
salad leaves, to serve

1 Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil.

2. Add pasta and set your timer for the time indicated on the packet. Simmer, stirring every few minutes until the pasta is no longer crunchy.

3. Drain and return the hot pasta to the pot.

4. Stir in the cream and cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed (the cheese may be salty enough).

5. Serve hot with salad leaves on the side.

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Variations

different cheese – my fave combo is parmesan and emmental for flavour and ooziness. But any good melting cheese will work like gruyere, cheddar or even mozzarella. Or if you want to use processed sliced cheese, knock yourself out!

more veg – add a few handfuls peas frozen peas or snow peas to the pasta cooking water a minute before the timer is due to go off. Or toss in roast or grilled veg in with the cheese.

gluten-free – use GF pasta (I like ones based on quinoa flour) or replace pasta with cooked or canned chickpeas or white beans. Just warm the drained legumes in a little oil in a pan before adding cream and cheese.

dairy-free – replace cheese and cream with a few handfuls of a dairy-free pesto like this Sicilian Nut Pesto (it’s really good and I often prefer it to traditional pesto). Or replace cream with a peppery extra virgin olive oil and replace cheese with sliced grilled veg like eggplant, zucchini and / or red bell peppers (capsicum).

paleo – replace pasta with diced roast veg like sweet potato, parsnip and carrot. And use one of the dairy-free options instead of the cheese and cream.

carnivore – toss in some cooked bacon or sausage or finely sliced prosciutto.

Video version of the recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. I know you might still be thinking…

But come on Jules, how big are YOUR handfuls. So for the record I have quite long fingers. I’ve often had people tell my I have ‘piano playing’ hands. Also for the record, I’m crap at piano. But I did just measure out a ‘Jules handful’ of almonds and they were a generous 1/4 cup. Now what am I going to do with all these almonds?

xx

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