We hadn’t seen Moo in seven years. So when he rang a few days ago and asked what we were doing the following night, my instant reply was, “Nothing I can’t cancel”. We had a wonderful night catching up, discussing everything from sharks’ teeth fossils to remote controlled helicopters.
About ten years ago, Moo (Michael to his work colleagues) sent us a homemade Christmas card shaped as a 3D star. He’d spent ages cutting out the little points with a Stanley knife. It hung on our tree for years, until the cardboard finally wore out. I’ve asked him to send me a new star for the tree this Christmas!
Good conversation is always enhanced by easy comfort food, and Pete’s pasticcio is as easy and comforting as they come. Well, easy because I didn’t have to make it, but comforting and flavoursome nonetheless. It’s a traditional Greek dish, characterised by the addition of cinnamon, which fills the kitchen with a delicious aroma as it bakes, and smothered in a golden bechamel , enriched with egg yolks.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 500g minced lamb
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tsp dried oregano (if you can find Greek rigani, all the better)
- 250ml (1 cup) red wine
- 150g tomato paste (we used homemade, so it wasn’t quite as salty or thick)
- 500g penne pasta (dried)
- 125g salted butter
- ¼ cup plain flour
- 750ml (3 cups) milk
- 80g (1 cup) grated pecorino or romano cheese
- 4 egg yolks
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a deep baking dish or tray.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion until soft. Mix the cinnamon into the meat, then add this to the pan, breaking up the lumps and cooking for 5 minutes until brown and cooked through. Stir through the oregano, red wine, tomato paste and 2 cups of water. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Season to taste.
3. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water for 10 – 12 minutes until just tender. Drain and return to the pan. Stir through the mince sauce, then spoon into the baking dish.
4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add flour. Stirring, cook for one minute, then whisk in the milk until smooth. Reduce the heat and whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese and egg yolks (stir fast, so the yolks dissolve in rather than scrambling).
5. Spread the sauce over the pasta and bake for 30 minutes until golden, then rest in the dish for 10 minutes before serving. Any leftovers reheat brilliantly the next day!