Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The New Normal

In which I discuss the art of dating and provide a very user friendly version of Heston Blumenthal's macaroni cauliflower cheese.

D and I had been together eight and a half years when we separated, albeit on a trial basis. That's a long time, especially, I think, when it essentially covers the period from early(ish) twenties to thirties - for me, my real growing up years.

We're still trying to work out what this separation should look like. One thing we are agreed on is that we should try just dating for a while. Dating. Remember that? When you got dressed up and went out and did something as opposed to sitting on the sofa in pyjamas with a bottle of wine and a boxset? Yeah, dim and distant for me too. I got married so I wouldn't have to do dating anymore but there you go...

As of Saturday I have my first top tip for anyone who may find themselves in a similar position. When you book tickets for an event, EVEN if you book them through a particular theatre box office don't be so naive as to assume said theatre is where the event actually is. Apparently, in the last eight and a half years, things have changed. And I have failed to change along with them. Check, check and check again all the details of your "date" if you are the organising party - this will prevent your sort-of ex rolling his eyes, biting his lip and generally remembering all the annoying, scatty habits you had which led him to leave in the first place.
Why not invite him around for dinner? No location based issues to fend with then, and why not make him something like the below? It's rich and decadent enough to appeal to the sternest heart.

This is an adaptation of the recipe in Heston B's latest which is called something like "At Home" or "Easy Peasy Recipes for Busy People". The original requires a trip to the chemist to buy something more commonly used to treat cystitis than ameliorate your dinner and a number of slightly twiddly processes. I am sure that these are there to make the dish better but the below was scrumptious, easy enough to whip up after a day at work and with just a tiny tweak to the amount of butter and cheese and a swap of whole for skimmed milk, relatively WW friendly. Hurrah.

Don't be put off by the small amount of pasta - this quantity is definitely sufficient.

150g cauliflower florets
200ml skimmed milk
100g macaroni
80g Gruyere plus 20g for topping
20g Parmesan
Tsp wholegrain mustard
20g butter

Serves 2, 14 pro points per portion

Place most of the cauliflower florets in a saucepan - keeping a few back for the final stage. Go for a large pan with a big surface area so that the milk will almost cover when poured over. Place over a medium heat and simmer for 35 minutes. When done, the vegetable should be meltingly soft - tip cauliflower and milk into a blender and whizz to a smooth purée.

Cook the pasta in well salted water until al dente.

Bring the cauliflower mixture back to a simmer, add the cheeses and mix well. When the cheese has melted and the sauce is unctuous and smooth, stir through the mustard, the butter and season to taste.

Fold the cooked pasta and reserved raw cauliflower florets through the sauce. Top with the reserved Gruyere and pop under the grill and bubbling and golden.


  1. Oh jees, dating, it seems like a distant thing. I hope it's going well.

    This dish sounds utterly amazing. Cauliflower/ Macaroni cheese are 2 of my most favourite things ever. I must try it!


    1. Hmmm - I'm reserving judgement on whether it is going well or not - it's WEIRD dating someone you've known for so long!!

      But definitely cook this - it's delicious and very simple.


  2. Hey lovely. You sound positive in this post, which is good. Clearly down to the presence of copious amounts of cheese.

    Jewhurst and I never did dating, apart from a few dates in the 2 weeks between meeting and me going home to Belfast. He would come to visit so thing were immediately comfy and PJ/boxset stuff. I hope dating helps you fall in love with each other again :)

    Always thinking of you xxxx

    1. Thanks Lauren - you're right, all the cheese is definitely helping (and lovely comments like this one) :-)


  3. How's the dating going? Do you have a time period defined for the separation? Fingers crossed...


  4. While I hate the term "date night" I do like the concept but it is tricky remembering to actually go on them! You think you go to the cinema/theatre/for a meal etc quite often and then realise that it has been months!!

    Good luck with your dating hon.

    Lesley xx

  5. Peridot - we have both signed tenancy agreements on our respective houses for 12 months so we will be living apart for a year during which time we'll decide whether or not we want to make it permanent. The dating is ok, but weird. It's hard to "date" someone that you know so well and sometimes, like at the weekend when he "stayed over" two nights it was almost like things were back to normal which made Sunday rather painful.

    Lesley - yes, I don't like that term either but I think a lot of long term couples do get out of the habit of setting aside proper quality time together - we were certainly guilty of that - so maybe the cringeworthy term is worth it if you can prevent the rot setting in...? I don't know, but at least I have plenty of time on my own to ponder (cue wry smile...)


    1. I feel for you but also think that the old phrase "what doesn't break you makes you stronger" will apply. If you decide to get back together after this experience you will certainly know how much you mean to each other and if you don't you will know that you gave it every chance.

      As I lounge here in the most hideous but comfy outfit and wave Rich off to darts and dominoes by himself (I'm too sick to join him) I'm making a mental note to make sure we go out just the 2 of us NEXT WEEK!!

      (((((((Big hug)))))))

      Lesley xx