Food & drink

James St Recipes: Niall McKenna's macaroni cheese and crab salad

Niall McKenna's crab salad
Niall McKenna

NOW that summer is finally here and we can spend more time outdoors enjoying the brighter evenings, no one wants to spend hours in the kitchen preparing mid-week dinners. This week's recipes can be quickly prepped in advance and are easy to re-heat.

A family favourite in our house is macaroni cheese. This wholesome dish can be prepared in advance and popped into the oven when the kids come home from school. Like most dishes, it tastes even better when topped with pancetta or crispy bacon.

The second dish, crab salad, is one of my all-time favourites for the summer months and can be found on the menu at our new Waterman Restaurant, beside the cookery school on Hill Street in Belfast.

For more information, or to book an experience at Waterman Cookery School, visit


(Serves 4)

400g macaroni pasta

For the sauce:

800ml milk

½ onion, finely chopped

50g butter

50g plain flour

300g mature cheddar cheese, grated

400ml double cream

1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

75g parmesan, grated

Salt and pepper to season


Place the milk and onion in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

In a second saucepan, add butter and once melted add in the flour, mixing until smooth. Next, add the boiled milk to the saucepan slowly and mix vigorously to smooth out any lumps. Keep stirring the mixture and bring to the boil.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the cheddar cheese and stir in the cream and mustard

Place the pasta in a separate pot of boiling water and cook to before al dente, as it will get cooked again when placed in oven.

Remove the pasta from the water and mix with the cheese sauce.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place the mixture in an oven proof dish and top with grated parmesan cheese, baking until the top is golden.


(Serves 4)

3 baby gem, washed

1 shallot, thinly sliced

5g capers (in brine, not salt)

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 chilli, chopped

50g mayonnaise

10g crème fraiche

100g white picked crab meat

10g chives, chopped

10g flat leaf parsley, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper


Wash the baby gem, wrap in a clean towel and place in the fridge.

Try and buy the crab meat as fresh as possible as it makes a massive difference to the taste.

When working with any shellfish always try and have the ingredients pre-prepared and use utensils that are cold.

Place the crab in a bowl, add mayonnaise, crème fraîche, chives, chilli and parsley. Add half of the lemon juice and all the zest. Mix thoroughly and season, it should not need a lot of salt, but this depends on your palate. You can also increase the heat of this dish by increasing the amount of chilli used.

To serve, make a dressing using the rest of lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and mix. Pour the dressing over leaves and mix through. Season again and place on dish adding a sprinkle with shallots, capers, and crab mix.

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