So I am in a bit of ‘Greek food mood’ at the moment, and one of my favourite dishes is the classic and very tasty, Youvetsi – which is basically a baked meat and pasta dish. Sounds pretty simple, and not so exciting when I put it like that, but trust me, it is much more than that! You can make this dish with any cut of meat really, but traditionally a leg of lamb is usually used. In my case, I have used diced pork shoulder which I think is just as tasty. Basically, you want a cut of meat that is a bit on the fatty side (so flavour, flavour, flavour!).
Orzo (or Kritharaki) is usually the pasta of choice for this dish, and works well as it’s quite delicate. Now, pasta is a dish that is typically associated with the Italians (and of course, they do such a bang up job!), but Greeks love their pasta! At the end of the day, pasta is quite cheap, nutritious and is comfort food in a nutshell, so it makes perfect sense that my grandparents ate bucket loads of it.
This dish is best known across the beautiful island of Corfu, and everyone has their own take on it, in terms of the spices and herbs used. I have taken a more aromatic approach to the dish, and added a few allspice berries and a cinnamon stick. The flavour is not at all overpowering, but just adds a hint of warmth to the dish.
And of course like all good pasta dishes, the final touch is always a good sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese, although in Greece a popular cheese call Mizithra would be used. Enjoy!
500 grams diced pork shoulder
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 heaped tbsp sundried tomato paste
1 can chopped tomatoes (I used Cirio)
1 glass red wine
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 cinnamon stick
11 allspice berries
300 grams Orzo
Salt and Peppers, to season
Start by sautéing the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until soft.
Add the pork shoulder, paprika, oregano, sundried tomato paste and garlic and sauté until the pork catches a bit of colour, about 5-7 minutes. You also want to cook the tomato paste thoroughly at this point so it doesn’t lend the dish a slightly bitter flavour.
Next add the red wine, chopped tomatoes, sugar and enough water to cover the pork, about 1 pint/500 mls. Season with salt, bring this to a low simmer and leave for about 5 minutes. Cover the dish with a lid/aluminium foil, and place in a preheated 180C oven for 1 hour. Check that there is still plenty of juice in the dish after the hour is up. If not, top with another pint/500mls of water, cover the dish again and cook for a further 30 minutes. You want to make sure there is enough water/juice in the dish to cook the Orzo pasta.
Before adding the Orzo to the dish, place the 300g of Orzo in a bowl and drizzle in a bit of olive oil – just enough to gently coat all of the Orzo in oil. This is something my mom has always done, and helps make sure the Orzo doesn’t stick together when baking in the oven. Add the Orzo to the dish, give it all a good stir, and place the dish back in the oven without the lid for a further 5 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, give it all a good stir again, and cook for a further final 5 minutes. Finally remove the dish from the oven, and check to see if the Orzo is almost done – at this point it should be a bit al dente. Cover the dish with the lid, and set aside for a further 5 minutes. This will help make sure the Orzo is well and truly done. Serve the dish with a good sprinkling of parmesan, or even pecorino, some freshly ground black pepper and you’re done!