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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A Spicy Finger in Every Pie

18 August 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is cooking with okra, another vegetable that arouses strong emotions in the love it or hate it camps.

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Okra – washed, dried and ready for action

Many are put off this green pod, also known as lady’s fingers, for its tendency to taste a bit slimy at times. This sliminess can be avoided by making sure that after washing, the pods are thoroughly dried before being cooked. Stir frying can also help retain okra’s natural crunchiness.

The origins of okra are unclear – South Asia, West Africa and Ethiopia all make claims to be the home of this vegetable. Okra was brought to Turkey by Arab merchants and is known by its Arabic name, bamya.  It’s often cooked with olive oil and tomatoes and served as a side dish in Turkey.

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Bhindi bhaji – dry okra curry

Our favourite recipe for okra is to prepare it Indian-style, stir fried with spices to make a dry bhindi bhaji, which works as a standalone dish or can be accompanied with a lentil dhal and rice combo.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

500 g okra washed and dried

250 g tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

One clove of garlic

1 cm fresh ginger

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin

One teaspoon dried coriander

One teaspoon cinnamon

One teaspoon turmeric

One teaspoon chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

Method 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the diced onion and garlic and cook for five minutes or so until just starting to brown. Add the spices (ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric and chili flakes) and stir well.

Throw the tomatoes into the spicy onion mix and cook for another five minutes or so until the tomatoes begin to break up. Now add the okra and stir fry for ten minutes, making sure the okra are well-coated with the curry sauce.

Serve immediately with a lentil dhal and basmati rice or chapatis, or both if you’re feeling famished.