Smoked chicken pastitsio is an interesting and mouthwatering twist to the classic recipe, a signature dish by Irini Tzortzoglou, winner of Master Chef Britain 2019. Irini has exclusively used all the Greek ingredients from Agora's online shop, all the authentic Greek flavours to make this delicious recipe at home and pair it with a glass of classic Greek retsina wine.

Smoked Chicken Pastitsio Recipe by Irini

Few words from Irini:

'Greek cuisine has had many influences over the centuries as one would expect in a country occupied by others for long periods at a time. This dish has come to us from the Italians, or at least the word has. Pasticcio in Italian cuisine refers to a range of baked savoury pies based on meat, fish or pasta as the case is here.
The traditional recipe calls for mince meat cooked with tomatoes and spices to be a layer over a thick type of spaghetti the whole thing topped by a rich cheese and egg bechamel sauce and then baked.
I have used chopped up chicken breast meat in mine combined with smoked chicken, the smokiness enhanced with some smoked paprika and the use of a smoked cow’s and goat’s milk cheese in the bechamel sauce. Some lovely retsina wine is all that is needed to complete the delicious experience!

Smoked Chicken Pastitsio - Apaki Pasta Bake. Serves 6-8.

Instructions:

For the chicken

3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 banana shallots or 1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 fresh skinless chicken breasts

1 Apaki Cretan Smoked Chicken Breast

100ml dry white wine

2 Palirria roasted red peppers

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

½ tbsp dried oregano

½ tsp of smoked paprika

For the pasta

1 packet of Misko Pasta No.2, 500g

150g Arvanitis smoked cheese, grated

100g Cretan Graviera cheese, grated

For the bechamel

100g unsalted butter

75g plain flour

500ml whole milk

1 bayleaf

2 egg yolks

150g Arvanitis smoked cheese, grated

100g Cretan Graviera cheese, grated

1 pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Method

Wash and pat dry the two chicken breasts. Cut into long thin strips and then into small dice. Alternatively, cut the breasts roughly and pulse in your food processor 3-4 times.

You want the texture to be similar to mince.

Repeat this process with the smoked apaki chicken breast and keep aside.

Bring a pan with the olive oil to a medium heat. Sweat the chopped shallots or onion for 3-4 minutes and add the finely chopped garlic. Stir and cook for a further minute or so. Add the fresh chicken meat, increasing the heat to high stirring for 2-3 minutes to seal in the flavours and moisture. Add the apaki smoked chicken and cook for a further two minutes. Add the white wine and let it evaporate. Finally, add the herbs, chopped red peppers, paprika and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lower the heat, cover the pan and let the chicken cook for a few more minutes till all the liquid has evaporated.

To cook the spaghetti, bring a large pan with 4-5 litres of water to the boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and drop in the spaghetti. Stir and reduce the heat to a soft boil. Cook the pasta for 10-12 minutes till cooked but still a little firm.

While the pasta is cooking, make the bechamel.

Bring a saucepan with the milk and bay leaf to a simmer.

In another saucepan make a roux by melting the butter and adding the flour over medium heat. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove the bay leaf from the milk and start adding the warm milk to the roux whisking all the time to avoid lumps forming. When bubbles start surfacing, lower the heat a little and continue to cook stirring all the time for 4-5 more minutes. Add the two egg yolks and stir well to incorporate fully. Add most of the cheese, holding back some to sprinkle over the top. Grate some nutmeg into the bechamel and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Take 2-3 large tablespoons of the bechamel and stir it though the chicken meat.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and put back into the saucepan it was boiled. Add the grated cheese and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well to mix the cheese into the spaghetti.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

To assemble, butter a deep oven proof dish measuring 25 x 35cm approximately. Place the spaghetti in the bottom on the dish in an even layer. Top with the cooked chicken and finally with the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake near the bottom of the oven till the bechamel is golden brown, approx. 40-45 minutes.

If you want to serve the pastitsio in perfect looking portions let it cool a little before cutting.

Serve with a green leaf salad and a chilled glass of Malamatina Retsina white wine

Serve and enjoy!

pastitsio recipe- Irini Tzortzoglou



Irini’s book, UNDER THE OLIVE TREE, publishes on 23rd July 2020.


Under the Olive Tree - Irini Tzortzoglou

You can pre-order Irini's book from Amazon which already has some amazing reviews:

'Glorious and sumptuous. From the simplest dishes through to the more complex, Irini totally captures the gastronomy of Greece.' Victoria Hislop
'A treasure trove of personal and factual information about the food of Greece and its islands.' Simon Rogan