Pastitso with creamy bechamel sauce

Pastitso, moussaka, avgolemeno sauces, fish stews and greek salads are considered a perfect example of traditional Greek country cooking and certainly a favourite in my home.

It is probably Tsemelmentes, one of the most influential chefs of his time and whose names is still synonymous to ‘cookbook’, who recreated some of these dishes as we know them today.  He introduced french style methods into the Greek cuisine preferring butter to olive oil and heavier sauces, bringing bechamel sauce and a Greek version of bouillabaisse to our tables.

A favourite in my home is pastitso.  I love to make a big tray so there is plenty for leftovers the next day and it is perfect served with a Greek Salad.

Here is my recipe for pastitso…


700 grams minced beef
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
olive oil
1 bottle tomato passata
½ bottle water
splash of red wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
100 grams fetta cheese
750 grams rigatoni
1 tablespoon butter
Béchamel sauce

Cook pasta in a large pot of water.  When cooked, drain and toss in the butter and season with a little salt.

Saute onions and garlic with a little olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the mince and brown, adding the tomato passata and water, mix well and add a splash of red wine.  Season to taste adding oregano and bay leaf.  Cook for about 20 minutes until almost cooked.

While the pasta and meat sauce are cooking prepare the béchamel sauce and set aside.

In a large baking dish place half the pasta, then top with mince mixture and crumble the fetta cheese over then.  Top with the remaining pasta and then finally the béchamel sauce.  Bake in a 200oC oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with a delicious big Greek salad.

Bechamel sauce

4 tablespoons butter
4 cups (1 litre) full fat milk (warm)
2 eggs
4 heaped tablespoons plain flour
salt and pepper

In a saucepan melt the butter and stir in the flour until combined.  Pour the warm milk in slowly, stirring all the time as you pour, add eggs and mix well, season to taste.

I prefer no seasoning as I like the sweetness of this sauce.

Stir and cook until it is a custard consistency.

Winter fruits

Winter brings to our kitchen table gorgeous apples, pears and quince, which I love to poach, bake or simply make compotes with.  You can experiment using your own combination of fruits, adding aromatic spices or some berries to them.

Baking these elegant and delicate winter fruits is something I adore.  Perfect with roast meats such as a slow roasted pork belly or duck, I like having apple or quince as an accompaniment to these meats.

My favourite of course is as a sweet, as I do confess I have a sweet tooth.

I like to take shortcuts sometimes, so tonight I am baking a rustic open tart using store-bought short crust pastry.  Place the pastry on a prepared baking tray and pile on the poached fruit (I used apples and quince) sprinkle with some almond flakes, fold over the edges and bake in a medium oven 180°C for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with custard, icecream, yogurt or cream.

I poached the pears in some water flavored with vanilla and brown sugar…I also added some frozen blueberries…delicious with some Greek yoghurt.

Hope there is some left for my breakfast tomorrow.

Rizogalo – rice pudding

This sweet creamy rizogalo fills me with childhood memories.

As a small girl I remember coming home from school and finding small plates filled with rizogalo lined up on the kitchen bench, still hot and sprinkled with aromatic cinnamon.  There was always enough for that afternoon eaten warm and another for the next day, cold from the refrigerator.

Perfect comfort food on a cold winters day…or any day really.


150 grams medium grain rice
600 mls full-fat milk
30 grams cornflour
140 grams caster sugar,
ground cinnamon, to serve

Place rice and 300 mls water into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat until the rice is cooked and water has absorbed.

Add the milk slowly and keep stirring.

Mix the cornflour with a little water to make a paste and add to the rice mixture, together with the sugar.  Keep stirring until it thickens.

When ready, pour into individual bowls and serve with plenty of ground cinnamon.


Cloves are small nail-like shaped flower buds that are dried…they have an aromatic sweet flavor, and can be bought whole or ground and are available all year round.   Ground cloves are commonly used in baking, and whole cloves flavouring sauces.

I love using cloves when stewing fruits such as apples and quince, making preserves, in sugar syrups and cakes.  I also love them in meat dishes with a red sauce with other spices… my favourite dish of course, being stifado – delicious.

I love the warmth of this dish, the sweetness of the cooked onions and the exotic aromas of the spices.  It is often made with rabbit, but I love it with either veal or beef.

Here is my recipe for –

Beef Stifado

2 kilos pickling onions
olive oil
1 kilo stewing beef (or veal) cut into chunks
1 x 680 mls tomato passata
¼ cup red wine
salt, to taste
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
10 whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Peel and cut off the tops and tails of the onions and put aside.

In a large casserole dish, heat some olive oil and brown the meat.  Add the onions.  Pour in the tomato passata and 2 cups water and wine.  Season with salt, add bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, garlic and peppercorns.

Cover and simmer for about 1 – 1 ½ hours or until meat and onions are tender and soft.

Serve hot.

Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Time for a coffee…

In a Greek household, drinking coffee is a way of life.  As a young girl I remember my father always drinking it and my mother always making it.  I remember these days fondly, sipping coffee and chatting…these are the memories that I love so much.

2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons coffee

Greek coffee is brewed in a long-handled copper (or stainless steel) classic ‘briki’ coffee pot.

Pour 2 cups (500 mls) water (small coffee cup) into the briki. Add sugar and coffee and stir well.  Place over a low heat and allow to simmer.  Before it starts to boil, remove from heat and pour the froth into the two coffee cups.  Return to the stove and allow to boil, then carefully pour the coffee into the cups.

Take care not to disturb the froth too much.