Bacon and Spinach Macaroni Cheese

I'm going to start off abit soppy and say a MASSIVE thankyou! Last week I attended the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards in London and I won! I can't believe it. I was so looking forward to the awards that I didn't really think about winning. I got to meet Hannah and Em, who by the way, are the most awesome bloggers and I can't wait to hang out with them again! Highly commended went to the gorgeous Model Foodie and I couldn't believe it when they called out the name of my little blog. I think I must have looked a bit startled when I got up on stage as I was in such a daze. The whole evening was brilliant and I can't thank you enough for voting for me. To get this, a baby and an engagement in one year has made me very happy.
 
Soppiness over. To show my gratitude I have made you, not a cake, but the most comforting mac and cheese ever. And it has spinach in it so it's good for you? Right? In true Sophie-style I was lured in by fancy packaging/freebies when wandering through the supermarket and picked up the enamel Lurpak dish that's been on offer recently. I've been after an enamel oven dish for a while and it was only £4 including two packs of butter, which I know won't go to waste. As soon as I picked it up I thought 'mac and cheese'. I'm attempting to build up my iron reserves in preparation for Baby Cake Hunter's arrival so I added spinach to the dish and it's a really good addition, if I do say so myself.
 
This was the perfect Sunday evening meal. It didn't take forever to make, it does require a few pans washing up though...something this good requires a little work. I can't wait to make it again and I don't think Nick will complain. I don't consider myself a good cook unless it's something really comforting, I'm not great at knowing how much seasoning to put into something but if a really good cheese is doing all the work then I can usually pass myself off as a reasonable cook. I find baking much easier.
 
Bacon and Spinach Macaroni Cheese
(adapted from Lurpak)
 
Serves 4
 
4 slices unsmoked bacon, cut into cubes
1 medium white onion, sliced
70g butter
40g plain flour
450ml semi-skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
1 bay leaf
250g macaroni
130g mature cheddar (I used Davidstow Cornish Cheddar - seriously good), plus some extra for the top
200g spinach
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F. Grease the oven dish and set aside.
  2. Fry the onions in a little oil until they start to soften, then add the bacon. Keep frying until the onions are golden brown and the bacon starts to crisp up.
  3. Wilt the spinach in a pan and squeeze out the excess water. Set to one side.
  4. Whilst the bacon and onions are frying, set the macaroni going in some salted boiling water. Cook it for 2 minutes less than the packet says.
  5. Then start the sauce. Melt the butter, then add the flour. Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until it starts to look smooth. Let simmer for 5 minutes over a medium-low heat.
  6. Add the mustard powder and bay leaf, followed by the cheddar and some black pepper. Whisk until the cheese has melted.
  7. When the macaroni has finished, drain and pour over 2/3 of the cheese sauce. Add the bacon, onion and spinach and stir in. Tip into the oven dish and spoon over the remaining sauce, letting it spill down through the pasta to the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle some more grated cheddar over the top and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden.