It’s just turned Autumn, so it’s time to start thinking about Mother’s Day but also to treat yourself with some cooler-weather comfort food.
And the great news is, this recipe for macaroni and cheese, made with real pasta (that we consider to be the ultimate homely, Autumnal treat) is also super healthy, according to nutritionist, Vladia Cobrdova. Why?
“Because it is real food,” she confirms. “There is so much conversation to stay away from carbs, but this dish is loaded with cauliflower, sweet potatoes and kale too so it is a well-balanced dish that everyone can enjoy without feeling guilty.”
“If we all ate a well-balanced diet and exercised, we would not have these fears around real food groups such as complex carbohydrates.”
Vladia is passionate about good quality, honest food. She develops recipes for one of Australia’s pioneer health shops, About Life, who specialise in wholefoods – (meaning food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances).
“The beauty of eating wholefoods is that you feel great, look great and know what is on your plate – the transparency is the farm to plate philosophy – this way of eating we are not only supporting our bodies but also our farmers and the planet.
“The wholefood movement has taken off as of late because people are becoming more savvy about what is actually in their food but they are also being bombarded with information and there is a trend towards restrictive eating and cutting out certain food groups. This just confuses people.
“My food philosophy is pretty simple. Get back to foods that are as close to their natural state as possible; fresh produce is your medicine; eat the way that our great grandparents used to eat.
“As a nutritionist, I encourage people to tune into themselves and find out for themselves what agrees with them and what doesn’t. My motto is to become your own wellness expert.”
Vladia’s recipe for wholefood mac ‘n’ cheese is vegetarian, serves 4 with prep time 15 mins, and cooking time 40 mins.
400 g (14 oz/about 1 large) sweet potato, peeled and chopped
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) dried spelt macaroni (or wholemeal wheat or gluten-free pasta)
300 g (10½ oz) cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 large kale leaf, finely chopped stalk removed (about 1 cup)
130 g (4½ oz/1 cup) crumbled feta cheese 300 g
(10½ oz/3 cups) grated cheddar cheese Sauce 80 g
(2¾ oz) unsalted butter
65 g (2½ oz/½ cup) spelt flour
420 ml (14½ fl oz/12/3 cups) milk
400 ml (14 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Put the chopped sweet potato in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
- Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes or until very soft.
- Drain, mash until smooth, then set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil.
- Add the pasta, stir well, then cook for 10–15 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the pan.
- Add the sweet potato mash and stir to combine.
- To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
- When the butter has melted but not browned, add the flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes thick and crumbly.
- Whisking continuously, gradually add the milk until smooth and well combined.
- Add the coconut milk, then simmer, whisking regularly, for 5 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and thick.
- Remove from the heat and season with the salt and pepper.
- Stir the sauce into the pasta and sweet potato mixture and combine well.
- Add the cauliflower, kale, feta and 100 g (3½ oz/1 cup) of the grated cheddar and mix well.
- Spoon into a shallow 2 litre (70 fl oz/8 cup) capacity ovenproof dish, and scatter with the remaining cheddar. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp
Recipe is from Vladia Cobrdova’s new book, A Whole New Way To Eat (Murdoch Books, RRP $35)
From humble beginnings as a juice bar with some basic wholefood grocery items, About Life has now grown into eight natural wholefood stores across the Sydney region and now Melbourne. Their philosophy towards food hasn’t changed in their 20 years of operation, no more complexity, just simplicity and goodness.