Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ghagin Tork jew Griek ("turkish" or "greek" pasta, but it's actually Maltese!)

I have no clue as to whether this pasta sauce originates from Turkey, Greece, or anywhere else but Malta, but all I know is that it's absolutely divine, and So ridiculously easy.  You will need at 1.5-2 hours of simmering, so this is not something you make when you're starving after work :)

i love the simple look of this sauce, and the meat is literally melt in your mouth!

There are a few versions running around, however I tend to use the one my mum uses, which happens to be almost identical to the recipe in Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia's cookbook: "The Food & Cookery of Malta (Malteasers will know this one as that small unassuming blue book that's all dog eared in your mother's kitchen, with either a pic of a veggie man, or a picture of a dude near luzzi at Marsaxlokk, depending on if you have the 1st or 2nd edition!)

As a side note, the above-mentioned is an EXCELLENT cookbook for Maltese cooking - it goes into detail, describes the origins of dishes, and emphasises the  importance of fresh and good quality ingredients... i simply love it!  :)  It also has a great section with translations of the Maltese names of things into Italian, English and vice versa, including fish, and fruit.  It's fantastic for the foreigner trying to grasp the names of things, and also when you're trying to make things whilst overseas.  The ISBN is 9993200034, and a simple google search will show you where u can get this book (or go into any book shop in Malta.  No Maltese cook should be without it :D

This is how I found out that Celery is in fact Karfus, the typical firm celery that one is used to overseas has been exposed to frost during its growing period, and as we know in Malta, frost does not exist, the dew remains liquid at all times, even during the coldest winter night (with very, VERY few exceptions).

Anyway!!  This pasta sauce is really yummy, and a great alternative to Bolognese if you have minced meat but don't feel like your normal pasta sauce.  It doesn't have tomatoes in it, which makes me think that this sauce might have been around for longer than 500 years... but that's just one of those things that i wonder about... no factual evidence etc..

it's simple as hell, and completely foolproof.  It's also a perfect example of why meat doesn't need to be "sealed" when simmering for a while to retain moisture, although for some dishes, its nice as it lends a specific flavour and colouring to the meat. 

The amounts below can be used to serve 6-8 people, which essentially means I can freeze half of it for another day.

Recipe for Ghagin Tork/Griek (Translation:  Turkish/Greek Pasta)

750g-1kg good quality minced pork neck (or a mix of pork and beef)
4 medium onions, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
Olive oil (and/or butter if preferred), salt, pepper
Herbes de Provence (or some kind of mixed Mediterranean herbs like Italian)
a couple of bay leaves
A packet of bacon, all rind and fat removed, chopped
Chicken stock (or if you're too lazy to always make your own, some water and a chicken stockpot)
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
pasta, either fusilli or some other kind of curly pasta, my personal favourite is Celentani (aka Curly Whirlies in our household)
Plenty of grated parmiggiano/pecorino/kefalotori/grana padano/etc

Place chopped onions, garlic, minced meat, herbs, chopped bacon, pepper and chicken stock cube/pot into a large saucepan.

The original recipe calls for 100 grams of butter, but i used about  a tablespoon of olive oil instead.  Feel free t add the butter as it does make the sauce divine, i just don't think it's that needed, with the flavour of the bacon/meat/simmering, it's good without it.  

Add JUST enough water (or stock if you're just using stock not water and stockpot/cube) to just about cover the ingredients. 

haha check out the goobie of chicken stock stuff.  I like this stock though, esp seeing as it tastes pretty good, and also has no added flavour enhancers such as MSG, just natural umami ones like yeast extract :)

Cover, and place on stove on a low heat.  As soon as it starts simmering, stir every couple of minutes for the first 15 minutes or so, to ensure that the minced meat is breaking up, rather than simmering like a massive saucepan shaped meatloaf.

 Once it's safely broken up, cover and simmer for at least another 1 hour 15min to 2 hours,  stirring occasionally.  You will know the sauce is done when it clearly "separated", like the oil and liquids rise to the surface...

Taste and adjust seasoning.  I don't add salt at the start due to the bacon and stock, and this time, there was absolutely no need for it to be added (and anyone who knows me knows how much i love salt!)

If possible, allow the sauce to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Ideally, make it the day before, and reheat to serve.

When ready to serve, boil and cook pasta in plenty of salted water according to directions.  take enough sauce to serve the amount of people you want to serve, and make sure it's hot enough.  If not, heat it up.

When the pasta is ready, drain and throw back into the pot, and add the sauce, a handful of freshly chopped parsley and a handful of grated cheese, with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.  The original version also states that you add more butter at this point.  which would be awesome I'm sure, but i'm trying to be somewhat healthier!

Serve with extra grated cheese :)


Notable variations: My aunt isabel makes a similar version of this sauce, except she browns the meat, doesn't add much stock at all, cooks it less, and then finishes it off with cream and heaps and heaps of chopped parsley.  This is also good, but it's not quite the same.  I love it also though! :D

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