My boyfriend is only two weeks older than me. The downside is he can always call me out if I start embellishing what a cultural watershed Pokémon cards were in the playground. The good side is we share identical tastes in Disney films, the highlights of Jim Carrey's Car(r)er, The Libertines' albums and school dinners. One of the fondest, fondest memories we both have of school is ALL the junk food. That might sound a bit off-piste from a plant-based vegan blog, but we were teenagers, and those Panda Pops weren't gonna drink themselves, alright?
In a pre-Jamie Oliver Food Revolution world, (i.e. for almost our entire time at school), we were merrily served chips with ketchup as a main course or pasta with salad cream for a vegetable factor. I once campaigned to get soup introduced for lunches, passing around a petition in assemblies and getting wayyy OTT with flavour suggestions, only to realise we would be served soup from a packet and nothing else. Our canteen was virtually a vegetable free zone (someone once found some peas in the lasagne so credit where it's due).
Anyone a generation older than us in the UK will tell you horror stories of lumpy mash, gloopy custard and sloppy porridge, and anyone a a few years younger saw how school dinners improved (on the most part) once Jamie Oliver got a handle on them and started doing away with chicken-shaped nuggets. But for our formative years, we were fed off-brand Smash by the ice cream scoop spoonful and salad was always a second thought.
Last week I came across a tub of dairy-free cheese flavouring for pasta bakes, and used the whole lot on 1kg of pasta for the Generic Greeting zine launch. It turns out the kitchen at school must have been doing something similar all those years ago, because the end result was remarkably similar to the mac and cheese I used to have every day at school for £1.40 a plate. Those strong twinges of nostalgia may have also been helped along by Baz Luhrmann's Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) single playing on 6 Music as we were cooking. Boy did all that advice sound like a load of trite when we were 11... I've just looked up the original essay by Mary Schmich, and I am now very concerned about how apt ALL of her advice is.
While the days of Turkey Twizzlers, packet cake mix and tinned carrots might be over, there is nothing that makes me happier than a tray full of macaroni and cheese. Am I right, 1989 babies?
N.B. You can pick up a recipe 2 go 4 this and many other vegan-worded delights in the GG x Guac zine pictured above and available here.
MAC-N-CHEESE, NO GUILT REQ.
Serve this as part of a huge meal of salads or even a vegetable and lentil-based chilli and no-one needs to feel bad. Not even the school dinner ladies who tricked me into campaigning for packet soup for all. Guh. Also, I've exchanged the usual macaroni shapes for rigatoni here, as I find it to be neither as heavy or dense.
Makes enough for 10 servings
1kg rigatoni or robust pasta tubes
Salt and pepper
1 tub of Dairy-free cheese flavour sauce mix (you can find this in large Sainsbury's or in Holland & Barrett
Around 200ml unsweetened soy or almond milk
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp chilli flakes
Around 100g grated vegan cheese- smoked or hard, Red Leicester-style cheese works really well
Chilli flakes and strips of torn basil for serving
Get the pasta on the boil in salted water. In another medium sized pan, pour in the sauce mix and gradually whisk in the milk, until there are no lumps left. Now gently heat it on the hob until it begins to thicken. If you want more sauce, just add some extra flour and some more milk to keep the consistency rich. Once it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, sprinkle in the chilli flakes.
Once the pasta is ready, drain, and stir in the sauce. Pour into a large dish or lightly-oiled oven tray, and bake for five minutes. Now sprinkle over the cheese and bake or grill for another five, so the cheese has melted. Serve with more chilli flakes and the torn basil.
Oh and here's everyone post-mac attack, just cos NOSTALGIA (enjoy the POWA of your youth etc etc etc).