Skip to content
FoodThe Croft2022Music

The Plate X The Playlist: FRESHERS' NOSTALGIA

In an ode to Freshers' Week, Isabelle provides the recipe for a twist on a student classic - mac 'n' cheese - and Oscar supplies the nostalgic freshers tunes to keep up your cooking stamina.

By Isabelle Blakeney, Third Year English and History, and Oscar Ross, Music Editor

The Croft Magazine // Thinking about your next meal? So are we. The Plate X The Playlist, a new collaborative series between the The Croft Food and The Croft Music, will supply you with the recipes to cook and the music to make you dance all the way through cooking them. In the first article of the series, we're thinking back to Freshers' Week: Isabelle adapts a student classic - mac 'n' cheese - and Oscar supplies the nostalgic freshers tunes to keep up your cooking stamina.

The Plate: Squash Mac 'n' cheese

Isabelle: As autumn rolls in, we turn to our favourite comfort foods to get us through the cold weather and to fight the winter blues. This butternut squash-based twist on mac and cheese offers all of the satisfaction that the traditional recipe provides but includes two of your five-a-day for a slightly more nutritional comfort meal. The recipe is simple, but it does include two sets of roasting/baking as the pasta cooks itself in the sauce, so you can use that time to catch up on a bit of work or tick those small tasks off your to do list. The sauce is thick and slightly sweet, so the mustard and cayenne help to give it a kick, with the tomatoes adding an acidic touch, helping to lift the flavour. For an easy vegan twist, swap out the milk and butter for any vegan alternative and trade parmesan for nutritional yeast. Any pasta will do fine, but I’ve chosen penne as it’s large enough and well equipped to hold the thick sauce. This recipe is perfect for a house dinner or to take to a potluck, so if you’re making the dish for several people, just increase the proportions by person (though bear in mind that you will need a very large baking dish).


400g of peeled and sliced butternut squash

2 tbsp olive oil

1tsp paprika

1tsp cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper (to taste)

200ml milk (or vegan alternative)

0.5tsp mustard (optional)

30g parmesan, plus 10g for topping

100g dried pasta

A few cherry tomatoes, or one large tomato

A handful of chopped chives (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Tip the sliced butternut squash into a baking dish and mix in the oil and seasonings (you can add more or less to taste) until everything is evenly covered. Cover in tin foil and bake the squash for approximately 50 minutes or until it’s very soft (it may need more time- it’s ready when you can easily spear it with a fork).
  2. Once the squash is out of the oven, melt the butter in a jug in the microwave and then tip the squash, mustard, milk, 50 ml water, and 30g of the parmesan (or nutritional yeast) into the jug and blend until smooth. You can taste the sauce at this point and add more seasoning and cheese to taste.
  3. Turn the oven down to 160°c. Put the pasta evenly in the baking dish used for the squash earlier and pour the sauce over the top until it’s completely submerged. Mix to ensure that everything is evenly coated, cover in tinfoil once again and then place back in the oven for 45 minutes.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, slice your tomatoes either in half if they’re cherry tomatoes, or in slices if they’re large. At the 45 minute mark, take the dish out of the oven and remove the tinfoil. Lay the tomatoes evenly on top of the pasta and sprinkle the parmesan over the top if you’re using it. Move the dish up in the oven to grill for about 5 minutes or until the parmesan is crispy, then remove and let cool for 5 minutes. If you’re feeling extra fancy, sprinkle a handful of chopped chives over the top for added texture and to make it look that little bit more impressive. Eat and enjoy for the ultimate autumnal comfort meal!

The Playlist

Oscar: I've been to my fair share of awkward Freshers' pre-drinks, flat parties, afters and get togethers. Looking back, there are some I feel nostalgic about, and some, well, not so much. Something true of all of these occasions, though, was the main factor separating an anxious stand around in the kitchen from a more bearable first impression: the music. Cooking and music seem to share this relationship for me - if the music isn't right, my cooking experience is usually one I'd rather forget. So, I've compiled a playlist of nostalgic Freshers' tunes which I hope will ensure kitchen triumph, not disaster!

Featured image: Isabelle Blakeney

Happy cooking, listening and dancing...