Saturday, 5 July 2014

Pasticcio recipe

Thinking about going off on our travels again so soon has got me feeling a bit nostalgic for some of the travels we've already had. Two wonderful holidays were spent in Greece, firstly
Collapsed Pasticcio 
on the island of Packs and later in Skala Eressos on Lesvos. We both love Greek cuisine and so I'm attempting two Greek inspired meals this week. First up is my take on the mince and pasta bake that is Pasticcio.

4oz dried macaroni
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
300g lamb mince
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano
150ml Greek yoghurt
1 egg
50g grated cheese

First cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions and set aside to cool. I rinsed it in cold water to remove the starch, hopefully preventing it from sticking together too much.

Finely chop the onion and garlic. Fry over a fairly low heat until softened but not browned.

Increase the heat and add the mince. +Sainsburys had 10% fat packs on special offer last time we visited. Each is about 650g so we split them in two for the freezer. This recipe is half a pack and the weight is remembered rather than measured!  Break up the mince and cook it until browned.

Add the cinnamon and tomato puree. Stir in both, then add the tin of chopped tomatoes and about half a tin of water. I had a half tin of chopped tomatoes and ten ripe cherry tomatoes so I put all that into the tin then topped it up with water.

Stir in the oregano then bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until thickened.

While the mince is cooking, beat together the yoghurt, egg and cheese. I've seen recipes calling for various cheeses including feta, but we didn't have any so I blended strong cheddar with a tbsp of grated pretend-parmesan.

To assemble, put half the macaroni into the base of a deep dish. I used a 2lb loaf tin for the two of us. Spoon the mince over the top then add the remaining macaroni in a second layer. Top with the yoghurt mixture. Bake in an oven preheated to 180c for about 25 minutes.

The Pasticcio in the magazine photo somehow stayed together in a block whereas mine collapsed as I served it up. Perhaps they put egg in the mince too? There were elements of this that I really like. The yoghurt-cheese topping was excellent and the mixed textures of the macaroni, mince and topping worked well. I was disappointed with the flavour of the mince though and this is probably the most important part of the meal. It was very bland, even after adding extra salt. If I baked Pasticcio again, I think I would substitute strong stock for the water and also add a little wine. This might mean the mince cooking time would be longer, but I believe it would be worth the effort.

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