Leeky Pastitsio

5 April 2018

We’re back and, with Orthodox Easter just around the corner, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be making our own version of pastitsio, a Greek take on Italy’s lasagne. Our version comes with a red wine, tomato and lentil ragu and a leek infused béchamel sauce.

leeky pastitsio
KCC’s Leeky Pastitsio

A few weeks ago, I left some beans soaking overnight and when I checked them in morning the pan was mysteriously filled with soaked penne rigate pasta! A quick look online to determine if the pasta was usable led me to this post on the Ideas in Food blog, and this confirmed pre-soaking in cold water as an effective way of preparing dried pasta.

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Leeky pastitsio and salad

Pastitsio is one of those dishes that tastes great straight from the oven but improves with age as the cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavours have time to blend properly. It works well heated up the next day or even tastes good cold. We served ours with a crisp salad of rocket leaves, carrot. radish and tomato.

Ingredients (For 3-4 hearty servings)

200 g penne rigate pasta

For the ragu:

25 ml olive oil

4 spring onions

200 g cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

100 g red lentils

175 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and red chilli flakes

For the Béchamel sauce:

50 ml olive oil

250 g leek

3 tablespoons flour

400 ml milk (dairy or non-dairy)

60 g cheese (dairy or non-dairy)

One teaspoon of nutmeg

Method

Soak the pasta in a pan of cold water for two hours and while it’s soaking cook the red lentils in 200 ml water until mushy and all the liquid is absorbed. Then prepare the ragu and after that the béchamel sauce.

For the ragu, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then fry the chopped spring onions for a few minutes. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and mix well. Add the wine and when it starts to bubble add the cooked and drained lentils. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat.

For the béchamel sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced leeks and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the flour and mix well and then ad  the milk slowly, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Add half the grated cheese and nutmeg and cook until the sauce is just starting to boil, stirring all the while.

Layer half the soaked penne in the bottom of an oven proof dish and pour the ragu over. then layer the rest of the pasta on top of this and pout the béchamel sauce over. Add the remainder of the grated cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c for thirty minutes.

Serve straight away with a green salad or let it sit overnight in the fridge for a tastier pastitsio that can be served hot or cold.

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Brandy Almonzandas All Round!

It’s time to kick back and enjoy a cocktail or two as this week we’re celebrating Knidos Cookery Club’s first anniversary.

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Our first post was made on 31 March 2016, and over the last year we’ve been on a journey that has taken in many seasonal dishes from Turkey and guest appearances inspired by travels to Greece, Georgia, Iceland, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

To celebrate this momentous milestone, we’ve gone back to our roots in Datça, Turkey and come up with our second ever cocktail – the Brandy Almonzanda, a very close relative to the Brandy Alexander, a creamy combination of brandy, homemade almond milk and Dalkowski Chocotella (we couldn’t find Creme de Cacao) with a dusting of grated nutmeg on top.

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Dalkowski Chocotella – a chocolate liqueur from Poland

Datça’s tasty almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous all over Turkey – I remember sitting on a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had tables on the street, when a guy came round selling ice-chilled Datça almonds.

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A cup of frothy almond coffee served up at Karia Cafe, Datça, Turkey

Not content with selling the raw nuts, adding them to rice in a stuffed melon or adding them to local mezes, many enterprising cafes along the town’s beachfront have started offering Datça almond coffee – a frothy concoction made from the peninsula’s staple product.

Almond coffee came about because of the isolated position of Datça and the Knidos Peninsula. Sometimes bad weather would mean that supplies of coffee beans could not make it onto the peninsula so the locals made do with something they had in abundance – almonds.

For our Brandy Almonzanda we’ve prepared our own almond milk – it’s pretty easy to do: just soak the raw (unsalted) nuts overnight (or up to 48 hours – the longer you leave them, the better the milk tastes), adding a pinch of salt, a cinnamon stick and a date (we didn’t have any dates so we used some dried apricots).

After soaking overnight, drain and rinse the nuts in fresh water and then put in a blender with 400 ml of cold water and blend to a smooth paste. Strain the almond milk to remove any remaining bits in a metal strainer, using a wooden spoon to press out all the liquid – this will produce around 450 ml – and, hey presto, your almond milk is ready!

To make the cocktail, pour one part of brandy, one part of Creme de Cacao (or similar) and two parts almond milk into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into suitable glasses, sprinkle nutmeg over the top, add a straw and serve immediately.