UNI (SEA URCHIN) MAC & CHEESE
It’s typical to think of Japanese food as fresh and healthy, but the kind of food usually served at an izakaya – salty, rich, fried, perfect to accompany a beer or some sake – is often anything but. Japanese junk food is how I like to think of it, or extreme comfort food if not ‘junk’ food exactly.
Sea urchin and salmon roe might not be your mac and cheese usual suspects, but that is what is so sublime about this dish. The most comforting of all comfort foods, crispy-cheesy on top, oozy-creamy in the middle, but spiked with surprising little oranges jewels of fresh flavour. I sense doubts, but if you love sea urchins, I'd urge you give it a try... and, if you don’t love sea urchins, well, I not really sure we can be friends anyway!
- 250g macaroni
- 45g butter
- 40g flour
- 1 small garlic clove – crushed
- 750ml whole milk
- 60g of frozen sea urchin (uni) roe – defrosted
- 200g grated cheddar cheese
- A tablespoon of salmon roe (ikura) to serve
Place a large pan of salted water on to boil ready to cook the macaroni.
While the water is reaching temperature, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once melted, add the flour in small batches, stirring all the time to form a lump-free roux.
Now, turn up the heat up to medium and add the crushed garlic and continue to stir until the garlic is golden and caramelised.
Gradually mix in the milk, continuing to stir vigorously to ensure that the sauce is free of lumps.
Once you have added all the milk, bring the sauce up to a boil, then, once boiling, immediately turn down to a simmer. The sauce will thicken as it cooks.
By now the water in the large pot should be boiling and ready to cook the macaroni. Add the pasta to the pan and cook until al dente.
Now drain the pasta, then add it immediately to the white sauce, along with half the cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Finally, stir the sea urchin roe through the mixture, taking care not to break apart the individual pieces too much as you do so. It’s nice to come across visible bits of the orange uni as you eat.
Lastly, transfer to four individual gratin dishes and top with the remaining cheese. Then, place under a hot grill to cook until the cheese is browned and sauce bubbling.
Serve, still bubbling, straight from the grill, topped with a piled spoonful of salmon roe.