Market ingredient: Eggplants
Difficulty: Fairly easy – can just take some time
Did The Beard’s friend like it? “Delightful”
As the winter seems to draw to a close (although whether we actually had a winter this year is somewhat debatable), I felt that it was only appropriate to try and bust out some final heart-warming and cosy dishes. Moussaka is something that I’ve always thought about cooking but, for some reason, never have. It’s a deliciously comforting dish most commonly associated with Greek cuisine. Although word on the street is that it’s actually Phoenician in origin, but I’ll let the Lebanese and Greeks fight it out for ownership titles on this one.
The recipe below is a bit of an adaptation of one that I found. To be fair, when I made up the mince, it tasted kind of plain. So to further the Greek vs Lebanese debate, I turned to both Steve-from-across-the-road and The Beard for suggestions on how to better the flavour. Suggestions of nutmeg, cinnamon and pomegranate molasses were then incorporated into what I thought was a mighty tasty meal. The Beard’s friend, Science Jim, a lover of moussaka, was my guest reviewer for the night. The dish was proclaimed “Delightful”.
I think this is a pretty easy dish to make; it’s generally the bechemel sauce that requires a bit of love. I unfortunately didn’t have minced lamb (which would be more typical of the dish) but had to make do with minced beef. It still tasted wonderful, but probably would have been nicer with lamb. I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thinks and what else you’d add. Being quite a rich dish, I served this up with a clean and crunchy red cabbage, parsley and parmesan salad. Matches nicely as a contrast to the spicy, creamy richness of the moussaka. Enjoy!
Ingredients for Moussaka
- 1 large eggplant, sliced thinly into rounds
- 1/2 brown onion, chopped finely
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 500g minced beef or lamb
- 1 tin crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup dry whitewine
- 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (depending on your taste)
- 1/2-1 tsp ground nutmeg (depending on your taste)
- 1-2 tsp pomegranate molassas (depending on your taste)
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
For the bechemel sauce
- 75 g butter
- 1/3 cup plain flour
- 2 cups of milk
- dash of nutmeg
- salt & pepper to taste
For the red cabbage salad
- 1/4 red cabbage, finely sliced
- 1/2 bunch of parsley, leaves removed and kept whole
- grated parmesan cheese
- good quality olive oil
- squeeze of lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste.
- Heat some oil in a large frying pan. Cook eggplant slices in batches until browned on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper
- Cook onion & garlic in the same pan until transluscent. Add mince and cook until the mince is browned. Stir in tomatoes, wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and pomegranate molassas. Bring the mince to the boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until the mince has reduced.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a shallow rectangular or square baking dish.
- For the bechemel sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan and add flour. Stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens into a roux. Add milk, a small amount at a time, and stir until completely mixed. Continue to add milk in this matter and continue to stir the mixture. It needs to thicken fairly considerably, until the bechemel thickly coats the back of a spoon. Add salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste.
- Place 1/3 of the eggplant slices in the base of the dish, overlapping them slightly. Spread half of the mince sauce over the eggplant. Repeat the layering with another 1/3 of the eggplant slices, the remaining mince and, finally, the remaining eggplant. Spread the bechemel over the top layer of eggplant and sprinkle with parmesan.
- Bake the moussaka for about 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5-10 minutes covered, as it will be incredibly hot.
- For the salad, simply mix all ingredients together.
- Et, voila, serve!