Tuesday, February 16
E is for...Experimenting!
This week I have been experimenting with the greek recipes from the Hairy Bikers "Mum Knows Best" programme. Sadly the series has come to an end but it has inspired me and I have the book so I am using it when I have the chance. This was gorgeous. I made the recipe up then froze in portions. The picture above is dinner thawing ready for tonight.
I notice Masterchef is back so I will be watching in earnest for new ideas to try for my Cookery Challenge!
Middle Layer – Meat Sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500g pork mince
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 well rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 heaped tablespoons dried mint
1 chicken stock cube
A really good handful fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
About 500g tomato passata
A good sprinkling of paprika
Half teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Base Layer – Pasta
350g penne pasta
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
A third teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1 rounded tablespoon butter
About 200g Greek halloumi cheese, grated
8 tablespoons of the béchamel sauce
2 egg whites from large eggs, lightly beaten
Top Layer – Béchamel
200g butter, melted and cooled
Half teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks from large eggs
2 pints milk
200ml crème fraiche
About 100g Greek halloumi cheese, grated
You will need a rectangular oven dish measuring approximately 33cm x 29cm and 7cm deep.
Begin by heating the vegetable oil in a large saucepan and then add the mince.
Fry the mince over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until it browns, stirring most of the time to break down any lumps and to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Now, drain away most of the fat; no need to sieve it, just gingerly tilt the saucepan over the sink and use the lid or a slotted spoon as a barrier to stop all the mince from falling out.
Now return the pan to the heat, add the olive oil, onions and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add all the other ingredients – the cinnamon, mint, crumbled stock cube, parsley, passata, paprika, sugar and a seasoning of salt and freshly ground black pepper and give it all a really good stir.
Partially cover with the lid, and leave to simmer on a low heat until about 10 minutes before it’s time to assemble the bastichio, stirring every now and again.
Now bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and add the stock cube.
Add the penne and cook according to the packet instructions.
For the béchamel: while the meat and the pasta are happily simmering away, in another saucepan place your cooled, melted butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and egg yolks and gently whisk until well combined (a balloon whisk is best for this sauce).
Add all the milk and crème fraiche and whisk again to incorporate.
Set this aside for a few moments so that you can attend to your pasta.
When the pasta is ready, drain most of the liquid away reserving about 2 or 3 tablespoons. Then pour all the pasta with the reserved liquid straight into the base of your oven dish and whilst it’s hot and steaming, add the nutmeg, butter and the halloumi cheese and mix really well.
.Set aside for a couple of minutes to cool down slightly and then stir in your egg whites.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C.
Now all we need to do is to finish making our béchamel.
Take the pan with the milk and add the cornflour, whisking as each tablespoon goes in.
Now place the saucepan onto a medium heat and start whisk well! That’s the secret; don’t stop whisking the sauce until it’s completely ready. It will look slightly unattractive and lumpy at the start, but don’t panic as it will transform into a beautiful, glossy sauce by the time it’s done.
As the sauce starts to thicken, turn the heat down slightly and stir a bit harder, so that it doesn’t catch the bottom of the pan.
When it starts to bubble gently, remove from the heat and stir about 8 tablespoons of the béchamel into the pasta.
Next, take your slightly cooled meat sauce and slowly spread all over the pasta, to cover it completely.
And finally, spread your lovely béchamel over the meat sauce and sprinkle generously with the grated halloumi cheese.
Place it in the top third of the oven for about 40 minutes until it’s nicely browned. Alternatively, once it has cooled pop it in the fridge until tomorrow when you can bake it fresh! Just remember to take it out of the fridge at least a couple of hours before you’re ready to bake it, and that it will require a longer cooking time: 1 hour or so, again until it’s nicely browned and bubbling and making sure the mince is piping hot.
Leave to stand for about an hour before dishing up (or preferably a bit longer if you can resist) as it allows the juices to settle and absorb, and makes it easier to cut into pieces. It’s definitely worth the wait, I promise!
Serves about 8 hungry people.