A Tess Mallos Slow Food Easter Weekend – Garithes and Pastitio

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For our family Easter Sunday 2011 Night Dinner I had planned Prosciutto, Basil & Boconncini Bites as starters – to be followed by Tuscan Bean Soup with Crusty Cob Bread from one of our local Thirroul Vietnamese Bakeries.

As mains I settled on Pastitio from Tess Mallos’s Greek Cookbook – which is quite similar to the Rick Stein version used by Almost Bourdain in her recent blog post. This is one of my favourite foodie blogs & I like her foodie pics – a blogger’s beautiful pics. It’s nevertheless probably a little more stylish than the home foodie blogs over at Jamie Oliver’s web page – which have an honesty about them. In fact I think that’s great when you consider Jamie’s Ministry of Food campaign to get folks back to home cooking.

On Sunday nights I usually do Mains & Nan brings along a dessert – this Sunday she also brought along one of our nephews – who was at a loose end with the rest of his family interstate or overseas.

I quickly discovered that the Prosciutto, Basil & Boconncini Bites (from Australian Gourmet Traveller – Feb 2001) were going to be Greek Style with Haloumi when Saffron’s, our local Deli in Thirroul, had already run out of baby Bocconcini. Fortunately I had Haloumi in the fridge. These Bites are so easy – take a strip of prosciutto and place a small piece of Baby Boconcini or Haloumi on it – follow with a basil leaf (our’s are fresh from our garden) – then a quarter of artichoke heart. Roll up and secure with toothpick. I did about a dozen and let them sit in the fridge until later (Pic 3). They can be grilled – but I was going to bake them (on a baking tray lined with baking paper) along with the Pastitio – checking every 3 to 4 minutes and turning a couple of times. They need to be warmed through – but I don’t like them crispy.

Having done the Bites I moved onto the Tuscan Bean Soup – from the Oz Family Circle Magazine – a few years back. Such a shame that one of the older Oz foodie mags, FC,  is no longer available as a monthly mag – but sometimes there are still special winter & Christmas editions.

So I started chopping 2 onions, 1 carrot, 2 celery sticks & 2 zucchini. Heating 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil ( I used less than the 3 specified) and sauteing all the veges, except the zucchini, along with 2 bay leaves from the small bay tree in a pot outside our backdoor, as well as some shakes of dried sage- for about 5 to 10 minutes. Finally throwing in the chopped zucchinis as well as a 400g can of diced Tomatoes along with a drained & rinsed can each of Borlotti Beans & Cannellini Beans (400g each) (Pic 1). Then simmering for about 20-30 minutes. (Pics 2 & 3). Should be served with shaved parmesan.

I then started on the Pastitio from the Tess Mallos legendary Greek Cookbook. I had cheated & done a huge batch of meat sauce a couple of days earlier – reserving some for tonight’s Pastitio. Likewise with the macaroni. So it was fairly easy to assemble the pasta & meat sauce layers – although I had to separate the individual pieces of cooked macaroni that always seem to clump together when you store them in the fridge. Pastitio is similar to Lasagne – however the Bechamel Sauce is a lot lighter – as it doesn’t have the cheese like in Lasagne. With the Bechamel almost done I discovered that I should have added 1/2 cup to the meat sauce before I had topped it with the second of the pasta layers – oops – too late. So I just poured the Bechamel over the pasta – hoping for the best (Pic 2). 

At this point I decided that we really needed a tossed salad – so sweetly asked David would he mind throwing one together – his are usually better than mine anyway. I handed him a couple of fresh basil leaves from our vegie garden. The salad smelled so good (Pic 4), and included black olives from the tree in our front garden which we had home pickled.

We gobbled up the Prosciutto Basil & Haloumi Bites & loved the Tuscan Bean Soup – always a favourite – although as usual it really tasted better the next day – note to self – do this a day or two in advance next time.

Then a longish break before the Pastitio was ready (Pic 5) – you have to leave it for 5-10 minutes before cutting & serving – the same as you do with Quiche & Lasagne. I served it at the table with the tossed salad as my tiny kitchen had filled up with the dishwasher already running – and so I was running out of space to plate up. The Red Wine ? Tatler’s Archie’s Paddock Shiraz (Pic 6) that I had picked up on a recent trip to the Hunter with the nephew’s parents – it really complemented the Pastitio. Seconds of Pastitio were served up & the tossed salad demolished.

Another long break.

Nan had brought along Passionfruit Slice – similar to the version in www.Taste.com.au – but without passionfruit in the top layer. Nan had nearly given up on finding her recipe so we nearly had passionfruit iced cupcakes. Anyway the Passionfruit Slice was so yum – I have never seen it disappear so quickly (Pic 7 – half demolished !) Then a phone call from London from another of Nan’s grandchildren – a wonderful way to finish the evening.

hmm – and everyone just too full to eat the mini Turkish Delight Easter Eggs I had put aside for later on !