April 20, 2008

Greek Pastitsio

Another great Greek dish which I have been trying to recreate for quite some time. I have tried a few different recipes and I think this recipe gives a pretty authentic taste and texture, whilst not being too laborious.

Although it seems quite similar to lasagne in its construction, I think the emphasis is on the cheese sauce part, which holds the pasta together and allows the pastitsio to be sliced into portions like a cake. The nutmeg and cinnamon might seem like weird spices to add but I think they give the dish the authentic taste.

Serves 4

Pasta Mixture
  • 500g pasta (authentic pastitsio uses Ziti but you can use penne, macaroni or bucatini)
  • 3/4 cup (75g) grated cheese (use something that has good melting properties, like Halloumi or Mozzarella. I used Quattro Formaggio which was a mixture of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Mild Provolone)
Meat Sauce
  • 500g minced beef or pork
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes or 1/2 jar ready made sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree/paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Cheese Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 600ml/1 pint milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup (75g) cheese

Directions
  1. Cook pasta until it is still al dente (otherwise it will turn to mush after you cook it in the oven). Drain, and return to pan. Stir in the cheese and set aside your pasta mixture.
  2. For the meat sauce: cook minced beef and onion until meat loses its pinkness and onion is soft; drain excess fat.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce, the 1 teaspoon salt, mint flakes (if used), cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper; set aside.
  4. For cheese sauce: in a saucepan, melt the butter, then mix in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  5. Slowly stir in the milk, stirring well after each addition so that no lumps form.
  6. Cook and stir on medium high until sauce starts to thicken; stir for one minute more, then remove from heat.
  7. Beat egg in a small bowl, then pour into cheese sauce, stirring briskly.
  8. Blend in the cheese.
  9. Layer half the pasta mixture in a 11" x 7" baking dish.
  10. Spoon the meat mixture evenly on top, then the remaining pasta.
  11. Pour cream sauce over top, to cover completely.
  12. Bake, uncovered, at Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C for about 40 minutes, or until hot and lightly browned.
  13. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Tzatziki

The first time I tried tzatziki was in Rhodes in Greece with some fantastic meze. I wasn't sure if anything I could create would taste as good as we're lacking essential holiday ingredients of sun, sea and sand in the UK but I was very impressed that this tasted quite authentic.

I first made this as an accompaniment to spatchcock roast chicken, which is a great way to roast chicken as it cooks faster and results in lovely juicy meat.

For the tzatziki I adapted a recipe from Rachel Allen's book "Rachel's Favourite Food for Friends". Her original recipe included 1 heaped tsp freshly chopped mint and 2 tbsp cream but I didn't have any so I left them out.

The recipe serves 10-12 but any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

1 crisp cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded & diced into 3/4 cm dice
salt & pepper
dash of lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
450ml Greek Yoghurt

1. Put the cucumber dice in a sieve, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes.
2. Dry the cucumber on kitchen paper. Put it in a bowl and mix together with the garlic, lemon and the yoghurt.
3. Season to taste.

April 19, 2008

Welcome!

Hi

I'll be posting up a few tried and tested recipes shortly. Unfortunately I didn't photograph the finished dishes but will do that the next time I make them!
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