Greek Pastitsio

Pastitsio, Greek Macaroni

Greek Pastitsio

I was day dreaming about summer, and when I think of summer, I think of either Spain or Greece. All my childhood holidays were spent in Greece and I loved it so much.

Even at such a young age I would look forward to the food, and eat all the local foods, no “childrens menu” for me. No, I went straight for the grilled Barbounia, moussaka, gyros, tzaziki, olives and octopus or pastizio.

So whenever I’m feeling a bit melancholic about Greece, I will just cook something Greek like Greek Lamb Souvlaki or Pastizio and I feel like I’m on a mini holiday.

This Pastitsio is a quick version of the original pasta dish and there’s no need to cook the noodles first.

It all goes into one dish and cooks in the oven. So once it is in the oven, pour yourself a glass of Retzina sit down and relax and pretend you’re on a holiday!

 

Ref. sugar free  ✔

 

Serves: 4


Ingredients;

  • 7 oz long macaroni for Pastitsio (you can substitute penne or ziti)
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 oz. ground lamb
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 tsp. all spice
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Thyme
  • a pinch of dry mint
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 1/3 C. stock
  • 3/4 C. cream
  • 1/2 C. Kefalotyri cheese
  • 1/2 C. mozzarella
  • 1/4 C. Feta
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted

Greek Pastitsio

Greek Pastitsio

 

Method;

Pre heat the oven to 200° C / 400° F

  1. Place the macaroni ucooked in a large rectangle baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the lamb. Cook until it’s no longer pink and add the onion and garlic.
  3. Add the all spice, oregano, thyme, mint, and season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. The stock is already salty and so is the cheese, so add just a little now and correct if necesary later on.
  4. Cook until the onion and lamb are turning golden, add the flour and cook for another minute.
  5. Add the stock and bring to a bubble.
  6. Let simmer for a minute or so. Add the cream and heat thru.
  7. Turn off the heat.
  8. Pour the sauce over the macaroni.
  9. Sprinkle over the cheeses and place in the middle of the oven.
  10. Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes until macaroni is soft.
  11. If it gets to dark, place a tented foil over the dish.
  12. Remove from the oven and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Kali orexi!

Myra XO

Greek Pastitsio

If you try this recipe let me know! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to snap a pic and tag it #thecookingspoonblog on instagram! You’ll make my day. ♥

Moroccan Meatball with Quinoa

Moroccan Meatballs with Quinoa

 

img_2050

Serves 4

Cane Sugar Free  Dairy Free  

 

I once flew to morocco with friends in a Cessna 200. It was a little scary but so much fun. The man who owned the aircraft was a German diplomat and he had just bought a house thru my mothers real estate company in  Spain.

I don’t really know why we were invited I just said yes straight away in case he changed his mind.

I was even allowed to sit in the co pilots seat for a little while and got to fly for about two minutes until we were so off course I was asked to sit in the back again, Oops.

We went to Marrakech, and the food, the market, the people, the smell…….was so enchanting like nothing else I had ever seen before. I fell in love instantly with the sweet and savoury cuisine.

I have been making these meatballs ever since. I make a lot of other Moroccan dishes too but this one is by far the quickest and easiest, but it still gets you to the 1001 Arabian Nights atmosphere.

img_2052

Ingredients;

1 lb. lean ground lamb

1 onion peeled and chopped fine

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and grated

1 tsp. himalayan salt or regular

ground black pepper

1 egg yolk

1/4 C. (home made ) dried breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp.  Ras el Hanout , see Ras el Hanout. for spice mix recipe

1/4 tsp. ground coriander

1/4 tsp. ground dried ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp. fresh chopped coriander plus 1 tbsp. for serving

3 tbsp. chopped pistachios (dry toasted briefly in a pan). Reserve one tablespoon to sprinkle over before serving.

4 dried apricots chopped

For the sauce;

1 tbsp. tomato puree

1  14 oz. can chopped tomatoes, or 5 to 6 fresh ones chopped

1 tsp. beef stock powder

1 tbsp. honey

3  tbsp. orange juice plus 5 tbsp water to make 1/2 cup in total

img_2048

Method;

In a large frying pan add 1 tbsp. of  the oil and cook the onion and garlic gently for about 5 minutes on medium low heat until slightly beginning to turn golden. Add all the spices and remove from the heat to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, add the minced meat the onion and spice mix, the breadcrumbs, egg yolk, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp. pistachios, chopped coriander and apricots. Mix with your hands and form into golf ball sized meatballs.

Wipe your frying pan and add the remaining oil. Set heat on medium high. Fry all the meatballs until nicely browned all over and remove to a plate. Work in batches if necessary.

Once you have cooked all the meatballs. Start making the sauce in the same frying pan with the remaining oil in it and add the tomato paste and fry for 30 seconds then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, add the meatball back to the pan and simmer with the lid half on the pan, for about twenty minutes.

Meanwhile make the Quinoa.

img_2051

For the Quinoa;

1 cup (dry) quinoa

2 c. chicken  stock

2 tbsp. chopped pistachios (dry toasted briefly in a pan)

1 c. chickpeas drained

6 dates, stone removed and chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated

1 tsp. garlic powder

ground pepper

2 tbsp. chopped coriander

 

Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under running water. This is to remove the saponins that taste very bitter.

Did you know that saponins are for protection against insects?

Put quinoa to a medium saucepan. Add the stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and add the dates, carrot, garlic powder, chickpeas and pepper. Just before serving add the coriander and the pistachios.

Note: some quinoa only takes ten minutes to cook, so check the package instructions!!!

To serve place the quinoa on one side of a large platter, the meatballs and sauce on the other side. Sprinkle with more pistachios and chopped coriander.

img_2049

 

Not quite what you’re looking for? How about these  Meat Balls ?

IMG_6219

Greek Lamb Souvlaki, mashed Garlicky Cannelini beans and Tzaziki

 

Lamb Souvlaki

 

When we were kids, my family used to go to Greece a few times a year. We loved it there. The sea  is indescribably blue and clear and frankly I have never seen any thing like it anywhere else.

My father would rent a  fishing boat with Captain to go Island hopping, we would stop at beautiful bays for a swim and sometimes a bbq.

Whenever we did have a bbq planned my mother would bring a cooler packed with goodies, salads and off course Lamb.

While my parents were getting the coals ready my brother and I were sent off to find Thyme and Oregano, since it grows pretty much everywhere you don’t have to look far. We were always so excited to do this, we thought it was really cool to know what herbs to pick. Of course my mother would have to throw half the greens away when we came back but it was a really fun way for us to get involved in cooking. I can still spot Thyme from a mile now.

The herbs were not just for the marinade but also to put on the coals just at the end of cooking to give the kebabs a herb infused smokey flavour. I highly recommend it. When I close my eyes, I can still smelt it.

 

IMG_1249

 

Makes about 8 – 10 Skewers

Ingredients Lamb Souvlaki;

2 lbs. lamb, cubed,  cut from leg or shoulder

5 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, grated

1/4 tsp. Chili flakes

1/2 lemon (juice)

1 tbsp. fresh Oregano, or 2 tsp. dried

1 tbsp. fresh Thyme, leafs only, or 2 tsp. dried

1/2 tsp.dried mint (dried works better than fresh in this case)

1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper

10 metal or wooden skewers (soak wooden)

 

Ingredients Tzaziki sauce;

1 cucumber

1 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 of a cup extra virgin olive oil

18 oz. thick Greek yogurt

a squeeze of lemon juice

a pinch of salt

 

Ingredients Garlicky Bean mash ;

2 cans of white beans

1 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. olive oil (separate use)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine

5 garlic cloves, peeled

1 sprig of rosemary

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. chicken stock powder

IMG_1256

 

 

 

Method for the Lamb Kebabs;

Prepare the marinade for the lamb Souvlaki. Soak the skewers if they are wooden to prevent burning.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients without the salt! Adding the salt at this stage would result in dry meat as it will extract the moisture from the lamb.

Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight for the best result. If you are in a hurry, just marinate while you prepare your coals.

Remove the lamb from the marinade and thread the pieces onto your wooden or metal skewers. Season the lamb generously with salt just before grilling.

When the coals are covered in a thin layer of grey ash, it’s time to grill. Make sure there are no flames. Grill the lamb for about 4-5 minutes, (depending on how big you’ve cut the cubes), turning to grill evenly.

Put pita bread or flat bread on the bbq to heat up for a minute or two.

Serve with a Greek Salad and  Tzaziki

 

Method for Tzaziki:

Remove the skin and the seeds of the cucumber and grate it into a large bowl. Season with salt and leave aside for 10 minutes.

Wrap the grated cucumber in a towel and squeeze as hard as you can to remove the liquid. Place the cucumber in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Leave to chill for a while in the fridge if you can. Left overs must be stored in the fridge.

IMG_1280

 

Method for Garlicky Bean Mash;

Start by frying 4 garlic slices for decorating the bean mash.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a little saucepan. Peel and slice the cloves of garlic in thin slices.

Fry gently in the oil until golden. Be careful not to burn them as they will taste very bitter. It should take about 3  minutes on medium heat. Remove from oil and transfer to kitchen paper to drain. Pour the oil into a little bowl and reserve. We will add this to the mash later.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan a gently fry the onion until golden, about four minutes. Add the sprig of rosemary and the remaining garlic. Fry for another minute before adding the cumin and the drained beans. Cook the beans for about 10 minutes adding a little water if necessary. Remove from heat. Also remove the rosemary. Transfer to food processor. Process until the mash is smooth. Add one tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of the reserved garlic infused oil. Return to pan to heat up gently if necessary. Put in a bowl and drizzle with some of the remaining oil and scatter over the fried garlic slices. Serve immediately.

 

IMG_1279

 

IMG_1269

IMG_1268

IMG_1254

 

Not quite what you’re looking for? How about this Skewered Chicken Ras el Hanout on home made Flatbread with Sun dried Tomato Hummus and Garlic Dill Yoghurt dip.

IMG_9023