Swansea jack mac & cheese

Swansea jack mac & cheese

The Hang Fire Cookbook

Macaroni cheese, the greatest, blank canvas, comfort food around. You can pimp it up any way you like, use whatever pasta you have, whatever cheese you can afford. This version is inspired by the great produce found in West Wales. If you want to keep it classic, simply omit the bacon, laver flakes, cockles and laverbread.


Quantity Ingredient
500g elbow macaroni
1 teaspoons olive oil
4 slices thick, good-quality back bacon
1 small leek, halved and finely chopped
150g fresh cockles, washed
2 tablespoon toasted laver flakes
60g laverbread, (if you can't get fresh, you can order tinned online)
150g panko breadcrumbs

For the white sauce

Quantity Ingredient
1 litre full-fat milk
150ml single cream
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon english mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
300g gruyere cheese, grated
200g mature cheddar, grated
100g grana pedano or parmesan, grated


  1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8–9 minutes, until less than al dente. Drain the pasta, stir through the olive oil and mix well to keep it loose, then set aside.
  2. Dry fry the bacon in a small pan over medium heat, until crispy. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and chop the bacon into small pieces. Set aside. In the same pan, fry the leeks in the bacon fat over medium-low heat for 5–10 minutes, until softened. Take off the heat and set aside with the bacon (in Wales, we call leeks fried in bacon fat ‘cenyn blydi blasus’ which roughly translates as ‘very tasty leeks’).
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  4. Now, let’s make the white sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and cream with the thyme sprigs and garlic cloves over low heat – do not boil, just warm through for 5–7 minutes. Strain the solids and discard, keeping the milk aside.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a deep, heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute or so, stirring constantly, to make a paste. Slowly whisk in the warmed milk to make a roux. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is nice and smooth. Stir in the Dijon, mustard powder, nutmeg, pepper and salt until well combined. Stir in the cheeses apart from the Parmesan, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes and stir until the cheese is melted. Taste for seasoning, bearing in mind the laver flakes, laverbread and bacon will add extra saltiness.
  6. Now, add the cockles, toasted laver bread flakes, bacon bits and finally, the cooked macaroni. Mix well. Pour the macaroni mix into a baking dish, making sure it’s at least 5–7cm from the top. Dollop 6–8 teaspoons of laverbread, equally spaced, on the top of the cheese sauce. Sprinkle on the Panko breadcrumbs and the Parmesan and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve immediately with your favourite barbecue.

Who was ‘Swansea Jack’?

  • Many people believe that this is the name of the famous black dog that apparently rescued people from Swansea docks when they fell in. Others say it was the nickname given to Swansea’s sailors, who had a reputation as skilled and dependable mariners. Either way, it’s an affectionate term given by the good folks of Swansea and this recipe is dedicated to our West Walian friends and family.
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