Upon learning that December would be the last month for the Epicurean, I found myself thinking in overdrive. How would I select the last few recipes when there are still so many to talk about?
So many dishes that I love so much, dishes that have comforted or excited me that I want to share. Lists were made and re-made, recipes vetted and discarded. How does one choose?! So, I did the only sensible thing I could think of, which was digging deep into my memory for the dishes that meant a lot to me as a child, the ones that remind me of comfort, warmth, peacefulness and home.
That’s how I decided on the dish that features here today: giouvetsi, a one-pot pasta and meat dish that takes its name from the clay pot that it is usually cooked in. I have no such clay pot, nor do I remember my mother or grandmother having one, and you certainly don’t have to have one – a metal casserole or an oven pan will do just fine.
Start by heating several generous tablespoons of olive oil in a wide casserole over medium heat. When it begins simmering, add the beef – cut into 4 cm cubes – and let a golden-brown crust form before turning it over to brown the other side. When both sides are brown, remove the meat from the heat and place it on a plate.
Then, add the onion and a healthy pinch of salt to the casserole. Sweat the onion gently until translucent and add a small teaspoon of cinnamon and the tomato paste. Stir until the paste changes colour (it only takes a minute) and then add the diced tomatoes.
Turn up the heat and cook the tomatoes down to a thick sauce (about 10 minutes). Add the orzo – a rice-shaped pasta that you can find at Le Souk on Folkingestraat and various delis and tokos – and stir thoroughly to combine evenly. Cook over medium-high heat until lightly toasted and then add the water. Exactly how much water you need depends on how dry your sauce is, but 750 ml should be enough; a little bit too much is better than too little, though.
And sprinkel with pecorino
Bring to a boil, add the star anise and the beef on top and place in the oven – preheated to 180°C – until the water is absorbed (about 40 minutes). Five minutes before taking it out of the oven, sprinkle with a handful of grated pecorino and turn up the heat to 220°C so that it forms a golden crust.
The giouvetsi will benefit from resting for 15 minutes before serving with additional grated pecorino and a sharp white wine.
Anastasios Sarampalis is a lecturer at the Psychology Department.