Leek and Smoked Carrot Mac 'n' Cheese

by - January 13, 2017

There are a gazillion vegan mac and cheese recipes on the internet. Why should you make this one? First, a warning: I have never eaten Mac and cheese before, not really. My only memory of mac and cheese is my Mum cooking me a kraft box mac and cheese when we were in a little beachside cottage in New Zealand. She thought it would be a treat. What kid doesn't like mac and cheese? I didn't, I ate two spoonfuls, declared it 'basically cardboard', and went to take a nap. Naps were my thing, even at 8. 

I am calling this mac and cheese, because it looks cheesy, because the flavours I have put in it were meant to mimic the salty, ferment-y flavour of a cheese sauce. And because it's my recipe so I can call it what I want! I was told the best thing to put in mac and cheese was melted leeks, cooked and buttery. And smoked ham. Since butter nor ham are things I cook with (ahem vegan), I've changed it around a little. 

Because I am a student (read: poor), I can't really afford nutritional yeast or raw cashews all the time. And currently I had no nooch and only a handful of a snack-pack of roasted cashews (ahem tesco VALUE cashews. Regular cashews are pricey). So this recipe is easy peasy, because you probably have loads of these ingredients already.

Here we go!

'Cheese' Sauce
1 large potato, peeled and cubed 
1 medium carrot, peeled and cubed 
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Saukerkraut juice (weird, but it gives it the cheesey taste. If you don't have this, add the juice of any kind of pickle you have like jalapeños or a little more salt)
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp black salt (this has an eggy flavour and I cook with it lots, but normal salt is fine too!)
1 tsp garlic powder 
1 tbsp onion powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Boil the potato and carrot until tender. Blend it together with the milk, miso, lemon juice, saukerkraut juice, tomato paste, cornstarch, salt, garlic and onion powder and smoked paprika in a blender until super smooth. If your blender is having a bit of trouble, add in a small splash of water at a time until things start to get going. Set aside.

'Parmesan' sprinkle 
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup salted, roasted cashews 
Salt, to taste (add more if you are using unsalted cashews)
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning or a herb mix
Pulse all ingredients together until cashews are down to a very coarse crumb. It should take about 4-5 seconds, really! 

Smoked Carrots
1 carrot, peeled into thin strips with a veg peeler
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp maple/agave/coconut sugar or your favourite sweetener
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (If you do not have this, add smoked paprika or double the amount of BBQ sauce)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Make a marinade with all of the ingredients (minus the carrot). Steam the carrot strips for a few minutes or nuke it in the microwave for about 3 minutes until they are soft but still have a slight crunch. Add this to the marinade liquid and leave it in the fridge overnight. 

Mac and Cheese
1 leek, cleaned and sliced thinly on a bias
Cheese sauce 
Smoked carrots
Parmesan sprinkle
1 cup macaroni (you can use any kind, non-wheat if you are gluten free--I just used regular)
Preheat oven to 175C Boil macaroni according to instructions on the packet, mine took about 10 minutes. You want them al dente, because they will go into the oven after this, and you don't want them too soft already! As it is boiling, fry up the leek slices in some oil, vegan butter or you can steam sautee it if you don't want to use oil. Salt and pepper them well. 
Drain the macaroni, add the cheese sauce into it. Add the cooked leeks. Remove carrots from the smoky marinade, rinse them under water for a few seconds and squeeze them dry in your hands. Roughly chop the carrots into shorter strips, then add this as well to the mac and cheese. Stir it well, then place it in an oven-safe dish and bake, covered for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the sprinkle and return to the oven, uncovered for about 5-10 minutes to brown the top. You can do the last step under a grill if you have one, that should take about 3-5 minutes.

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