Sunday, May 3, 2009

Greek Moussaka

Greek Moussaka
Home Cooking

Before I started cooking, I loved eggplant. Now I think it's a pain in the neck. I keep buying the long, thin ones even though I know I'm probably going to slice and layer it. Thin eggplants are hard to slice. Especially because of their skin.

The skin is like... knife-repelling rubber. I don't mind eating eggplant skin but I've started peeling them just to have an easier time cutting them. Otherwise, it's about as close to impossible as it gets.

The other thing is that eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge. Put some oil in the pan, lay your eggplant in and then you look again... the oil is GONE!

Oh... and also, eggplant SHRINKS. One moment I'm panicking that I've got too much of it and perhaps wasted my effort carefully peeling and slicing BUT when they're out of the pan, they've shriveled to oblivion.


They do taste good though. And I had some in the fridge. I decided to make a moussaka. Moussaka is (in my mind), the Greek version of lasagna but instead of layers of pasta and beef mince, it's layers of eggplant and lamb mince, topped with bechamel sauce. I had it once at a Greek restaurant and have been wanting to make it since. Mind you, that was over a year ago. I sort of followed this recipe but modified the quantities.

Greek Moussaka

Serves 2

  • 4 x long, thin eggplants (about 600g)
  • 200g lamb mince
  • 1 sml white onion, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped finely
  • 300g canned, crushed tomato
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
For the bechamel sauce
  • 40g butter
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and thinly slice the eggplants lengthwise.2. Heat up 3-4 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat in a frying pan. Fry the eggplant slices in batches in the frying pan (keep them at one layer; no overlapping). One one lot is done, place on absorbent paper towel while you do the others. Set aside the eggplant when you're finished.
3. After you've done the eggplant, you can brown the onion and lamb mince in the same frying pan on medium. Add the canned tomato and lower the heat to simmer. You might need to add a bit of water if the mixture gets too thick. Stir in 1/2 the parsley and the allspice.
4. Make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a small non-stick saucepan on low heat. Add the flour and mix thoroughly to form a paste. Add the milk and stir until boiling. Finally, whisk the egg in quickly and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the thickness by adding more milk (if too thick) or more flour (if too thin). Remember, if it's too thin and watery, just keeping it on the stove will thicken it up.5. Take the sauce off the heat when it's the right consistency (or it might get thick and chunky). BTW 'right consistency' is smooth but thick enough to coat your spoon.
6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. When the mince mixture is ready, start layering your moussaka. I used a 10 x 10 cm glass dish but the whole thing overflowed a bit so I think a 15 x 15 would be a safe bet. Start with a layer of eggplant.
7. Add a layer of lamb mince and smooth out. Place another layer of eggplant. Repeat the layer of lamb mince and finish with a layer of eggplant.8. Top with 1/2 the bechamel sauce and finally, the grated cheddar cheese on top.
9. Bake for 25-30min until the cheese is golden and bubbling. I put the glass dish on top of a tray lined with non-stick baking paper because I was already over-flowing and I knew the sauce would run down. It's just a tip to keep your oven clean, people!
10. Serve whilst hot with the remaining bechamel sauce and parsley (you might need to reheat the bechamel sauce on low). I also served the moussaka with a simple Greek salad (cucumber, grape tomatoes, feta and black olives tossed with Greek yogurt and lemon juice).

The moussaka worked out fabulously. Although there are so many steps, it's a really easy recipe to follow. Word of warning: this dish is RICH. This was no problem for Charlie who stuffed down 3/4 of the dish to himself. Moussaka is great for winter - nice and hearty.

Because most of my sauce didn't 'fit' in the pan, I had a lot left over. If you use a bigger dish, you shouldn't have that problem. The left over sauce was difficult to reheat properly and I ended up with really thick and slightly lumpy sauce. Tasted OK but didn't look too fab.

Cucumber, tomato, feta and black olives - just add Greek yogurt and lemon

I really liked the Greek salad on the side because the tanginess of the dressing and crunch of the cucumber really complimented the richness of the moussaka. Great flavors - recommended!

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