Before I had even decided on which cheesemakers to visit for this book, I knew that the Reade family had to be included, because of their wonderful cheese, inspiring story and sustainable ways of working – plus, what a brilliant excuse to visit one of the most beautiful regions of the British Isles, where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and sample delicious local seafood.
The trip to the Isle of Mull was one leg of my British cheese journey that I was particularly looking forward to, and as you can imagine, it didn’t disappoint! The whole trip was simply breathtaking, from taking the ferry from Oban and seeing the spectacular array of islands in every direction, to driving along the very narrow coastal lanes to Tobermory and walking the scenic route to Sgriobruadh Farm. It was thoroughly enjoyable, not least because the whole time I was there, the island was bathed in what the locals referred to as ‘a strong spell of Scottish sunshine, unheard of here on the Isle!’
This macaroni cheese recipe was something I had to include in the book, using the best local ingredients, plenty of Isle of Mull cheese and a red onion from Chris’s greenhouse. A good heap of this cheesy pasta followed by a dram of single malt whisky distilled on the island at the Tobermory Distillery is utterly scrumptious.
Isle of Mull Macaroni Cheese Recipe
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 30 g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 30 g flour
- 350 ml whole milk
- 50 ml double cream
- 250 g Isle of Mull cheese, grated
- 300 g macaroni
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and butter a deep-sided, medium (30cm x 20cm) ovenproof dish.
- On a medium heat, pan-fry the onion in the olive oil for 5–6 minutes until softened and translucent. Turn the temperature down a little and add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Keep stirring for 3–4 minutes until the onions are coated and sticky, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, whisking constantly to make a roux. Then add the milk in stages, continuing to whisk to prevent lumps from forming. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens, then add the double cream, 1 teaspoon of salt and 150g of the grated cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the glazed onions to the cheese sauce and combine well.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to boil, add the macaroni and cook until al dente – usually a minute or two less than the cooking time given in the packet instructions. Drain the pasta, then tip into the pan with the cheese and onion sauce, and mix well.
- Pour the cheese and onion pasta into the prepared ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes until bubbling and browned on top.
- Serve with plenty of black pepper ground on top.
A Portrait of British Cheese by Angus D. Birditt (Quadrille, £27), Photography © Angus D. Birditt